Mackay Base Hospital is the first regional hospital in Queensland to use a 3D printer to help improve outcomes for patients with complex fractures.
Images of the bone taken during a CT scan are converted by open source software into a file used to print 3D models using the state-of-the-art machine.
Director of Orthopaedics Dr Herwig Drobetz said the real size replicas of complicated fractures would help surgeons understand the fracture and plan its repair.
“Mackay is the first hospital outside of Brisbane and the Gold Coast to use a 3D printer in this way,” Dr Drobetz said.
“The 3D printed image will help us better understand what is needed to bring the bone back into correct alignment. If we need to use implants to stabilise the fracture we can pre-bend plates and define the screw length in advance.
“We can also pre-determine correction angles and print drill guides on the bone models so we enter the operating theatre with a definite plan.”
The 3D model can be used to explain the surgery to patients and it can then be sterilised to allow it to be taken into the operating theatre so surgeons can refer to it if needed.
Dr Drobetz said the 3D printing would save time as the surgical repair was planned in advance.
“Normally we would be making decisions and shaping the plates in the theatre so this is a simple and affordable way to improve outcomes for the patient,” he said.
“It will reduce the length of surgery for patients and reduces their risk of infection as their wound is open for a shorter length of time.
“I can see a patient one day, have the model made, and decide the best way to do the repair, do a dry run of the repair and then perform the operation shortly after.”
Dr Drobetz said printing time would vary depending on the size of the bone to be printed ranging from several hours to more than 15.
The 3D printer was purchased by the Private Practice Trust Fund through the Mackay Institute of Research and Innovation for $8000.
“We won’t do it routinely for every case because many cases are relatively straightforward. The printing will be used for cases which are very complex.”
Danielle Jesser, Media and Communications Manager
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