With 3D printing becoming readily available throughout health care, radiologists are using the technology to guide more surgical procedures than ever before – including prostate cancer treatment and care.
"Graspable, 3D printed models provide radiologists with an accurate level of depth perception that is difficult to achieve when viewing 3D-rendered images on a flat screen," said presenter Nicole Wake, PhD, of New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, during a Monday session. "3D printing of anatomical data allows radiologists, surgeons, and other physicians to physically hold patient-specific models and use visuo-haptic inputs to better understand both complex anatomy and the condition being treated."
To produce anatomically accurate 3D printed models, radiologists must separate regions of interest (ROIs) from DICOM (digital imaging and communications in medicine) images, which can be acquired from any imaging technique offering volumetric imaging capability (i.e., MRI, CT). The segmented ROIs are then converted into a 3D format that can be recognized by the 3D printing software.
According to Dr. Wake, 3D printed models offer several advantages over other types of models, such as traditional imaging, augmented reality and 3D computer models. Referencing a large cohort study in the Journal of Urology, she noted that prostate cancer volume estimates made using MRI tend to substantially underestimate pathological volumes. "3D printed prostate molds created from a patient's pre-operative MRI can be used to correlate MRI and pathology," said Dr. Wake.
Based on an ongoing prospective study underway at NYU, Dr. Wake shared how 3D printed prostate cancer models can be used for both pre-surgical planning and to help patients better understand their anatomy and disease.
"While they can't interpret images, patients may be better able to understand the anatomy, disease and surgical plan by handling 3D models and discussing the models with their doctors," she said.
Enhanced Insight Into Underlying Anatomy
3D printed models can also influence surgical decisions regarding nerve-sparing, continence, and potency. "These models improve a surgeon's confidence in the surgical procedure," Dr. Wake said. "Most importantly, 3D printed models can decrease operating times and improve outcomes for those patients undergoing robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy."
By providing both spatial comprehension and tactile feedback, 3D printed prostate cancer models provide enhanced insight into the underlying anatomy.
"With a better understanding of lesion size, shape, and position within the prostate provided by 3D printing, surgeons are better able to prepare and execute these minimally invasive procedures," concluded Dr. Wake. "Patients can also better understand their disease and surgical procedure, allowing them to feel more comfortable with the surgical plan – ultimately leading to improved patient satisfaction."