In an article published August 24th on Healio, the author examined an article from the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open Journal that discusses the future of 3-D printing technology as it relates to the field of medicine in general. The article discussed how, in the future, customized implants, prosthetics, and other 3-D printed tools could be used to aid in the treatment of patients around the world. This brings up an interesting discussion of where 3-D printing could be helpful when applied to the practice of plastic surgery. While there are certain areas that may not require the advantages that 3-D printing can offer, other procedures could specifically benefit from customized solutions, particularly in the area of predictive modeling.
In some regards, the use of 3-D printing for cosmetic applications is already here. A company called MirrorMe3d prints 3-D models of a patient’s face to show a patient exactly what he or she may look like after a cosmetic procedure. With certain procedures, this imaging technology is bound to be more accurate than with others. In the case of procedures such as rhinoplasties, where subcutaneous features are altered, or implants, where new structures are introduced into the body, it is easier to see how things might look afterwards by knowing the shape and scale of the alterations. This is one of the reasons why 3-D modeling is being used with procedures involving the face, which has a much more unique topography compared to other body parts.
At the same time, even if 3-D printing technology advances to much higher levels, there are certain procedures, such as a tummy tuck, that likely wouldn’t call for implementing the technology. A tummy tuck is meant to reduce excess or sagging skin and flatten out the midsection. Because the goal is a flat stomach, the ability to accurately print depth is not something that would be necessary in that situation.
Even with procedures where 3-D printing may not be used, it is still important for patients to have a deep understanding of their procedure and an accurate set of expectations for the outcome. This means going to a surgeon who has tremendous experience with the procedure that he or she is tasked with performing, and the ability to properly convey expectations to the patient.