Technological advancements have not only enhanced society’s levels of productivity and communication, it has also made it more efficient and more accessible. Through mediums like 3D printing, users are able to digitally create physical replicas using advanced processes and technologies. Users are able to use advanced rendering to create objects that change everyday lives. From 3D printing of objects to 3D printing within the medical field, this fresh technology is changing the way the medical industry is viewed. 3D printing has become so advanced it’s gotten to the point where 3D replicas show plastic surgery patients their future look.
3D printing is a technological process of turning CAD (Computer Aided Design) digital files into three- dimensional objects using 3D design software. After providing the design software with an image, it takes the image and cuts it into thousands of tiny horizontal slices. The printer reads and creates every single two- dimensional layer, individually. Adding each extremely thin two- dimensional layer on top of each other until the three- dimensional object is created completes the process.
3D Printing is quickly changing the world and the way both society and technology is viewed. Carrie Stern, a New York plastic surgeon, founded an innovative program that will combine technology with the world of medical reconstruction surgery to revolutionize the medical industry. Struck by the need to bridge the gap between imagining the outcome of a surgery and providing patients with a foundation of realistic results, she began working on a solution. The result? MirrorMe3D.
MirrorMe3D, Sterns 3D printing project, provides patients with 3D models of their face and anatomy, prior to reconstruction or plastic surgery. The 3D model allows doctors to demonstrate what the changes will look like, directly on the model, prior to surgery with the patient. This allows patients to get an idea of what the surgery will accomplish and what they should expect in terms of outcome.
It’s not uncommon for reputable surgeons to have portfolios of their work- especially if they’re routinely involved in facial reconstruction or standard cosmetic procedures. In recent years, doctor Joffrey of the San Diego Lift Body Center started using software that allowed his praxis to create three- dimensional digital images on the computer for patients to view. But using a physical 3D replica that patients can touch and hold, as a way to show a patient the actual outcome that should be expected when undergoing the knife, is slowly becoming the industry standard. Many other surgeons have even begun exploring in-office 3D printing capabilities.
3D printing is often assumed to be extremely costly. Stern’s MirrorMe3D, however, is relatively cost-effective, affordable even- especially when comparing it to the fact that patients use it to guarantee they want to go through with a certain procedure. An expense far more costly than that of a three-dimensional printout. 3D printouts range from $60-$300.
The ability to print 3D facial and body replicas is important for several different reasons. In the case of plastic surgery, it allows patients to make an informed decision. Unlike dying your hair, or even getting a tattoo, plastic surgery cannot be undone. Having a 3D image of what you’ll look like if you have a certain operation will force patients to really consider their options and be sure about what and if they want to have a procedure done.
Providing a client with a 3D rendition of what a procedure will make them look like, ensures that clients and patients are on the same page in terms what to expect. There have been numerous cases of things like patient neglect and malpractice lawsuits. A meeting between a patient and a surgeon, during which 3D replicas show plastic surgery patients their future look, holds surgeon accountable to achieving a certain standard. While unforeseen factors can impact how close a surgeon can get to the replica a patient is shown, it makes sure the surgeon is being realistic in terms of what he tells the patient he can accomplish. Because unless a surgeon has a 3D replica where he demonstrates his ability to make you look like Jennifer Aniston, don’t believe it.
While, there are patients seeking plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons, there are also cases of severe facial deformity that causes legitimate medical need, and require plastic surgery to be performed regardless of risk or outcome. In this case 3D printing becomes especially helpful. Explaining to a child with a facial deformity that they must undergo an operation to reconstruct bones and tissue wouldn’t be nearly as complicated if they didn’t come out of surgery looking like a completely different child. This is a very tricky and complicated issue from the standpoint of the patient, the family, and even the doctor. Having the opportunity to use a 3D model to prepare both the child and the family about post-operation life and expectations is a substantial advancement to the medical, emotional, and psychological aspects of surgery.
The fact that 3D replicas can now show plastic surgery patients the future of their look, opens the door for conversation and exploration as to what other medical advancements can be achieved through the use of 3D printing. There have been stories of parents printing devices like 3D arm casts. There have also been stories about parents using 3D printers to create prosthetic limbs for their children. Despite the level of necessity, things like prosthetic limbs are extremely expensive, making them only accessible to those who can afford them. 3D printing also gives patients options in regards to material used in prosthetic and implant devices. If a patient has an allergy to a certain type of material, doctors can quickly and affordably create a custom option that the body won’t reject. Utilizing technology and 3D printing materials allows for custom and affordable production.
3D printing within the medical field also includes bio printing. Using living cells, doctors and scientists are exploring organ and body tissue engineering. Technology is paving the way for advanced health and medical innovations.
Not everyone is keen on creating 3D printouts of facial structures and other body parts. While some argue it gives the power back to the people, others say it’s like something out of a sci-fi film. Regardless of your opinion on utilizing technology and three- dimensional printing techniques, the fact that 3D replicas show plastic surgery patients their future look, is a huge advancement that has and will continue to affect a large number of individuals in the medical field.