Plastic surgeons have used a variety of imaging techniques to plan both their cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries for years. Recently, though, surgeons have found that 3D printing technology provides even more accuracy in reference to rhinoplasty procedures. With it, they can print life-size models of patients’ noses to use as references during surgeries. The technology is proving invaluable thanks to the outstanding surgical results.
How 3D Printing Works
In order to print a replica of a patient’s nose in 3D, surgeons must first take accurate photos of the nose from various angles. Then, using this information, it is possible to upload information about the image – including size, angles, and more – into a computer-aided design (CAD) program. The 3D printer uses the program as a blueprint and begins to extrude layers of material (usually plastic) onto a platform. Over the course of many layers, the 3D printer is able to perfectly replicate the human nose. In some cases, surgeons will even print the patient’s “ideal” nose – a life-size replica of the nose the surgeon will create in the operating room.
How Surgeons are Using 3D Printed Models in Surgery
Plastic surgeons across the country are increasingly embracing 3D printing technology for its ability to provide them with a sort of “guide” during procedures. Surgeons will take the printed model of the patient’s pre-surgery nose into the operating room with the patient and refer to it often. This allows for an outstanding real-time comparison, and it shows the surgeon the subtle changes that are occurring on the operating table.
The surgeon can also utilize the printed version of the post-surgical nose in an effort to better mimic its shape and structure. With the ability to refer to both the pre- and post-surgical models, surgeons find that they are better able to realize their visions, which leads to better rhinoplasty results overall. Patients who have had surgeries aided by 3D printing are typically more satisfied with the end results, as well.
3D Printing Benefits Patients in Other Ways
Though it is easy to see how 3D printing is changing rhinoplasty procedures and allowing surgeons to work with more precision than ever before, patients can benefit from the technology in other ways, too. Most of the doctors who have adopted the technology report that it makes communication with patients easier, particularly when it comes to limitations and possibilities. Surgeons can show patients, using these models, what is possible and what is not based on the patient’s bone structure, face shape, and more.
Surgeons have also found that access to 3D printing technology provides patients with peace of mind, too. It is possible to show patients what their noses will look like when the surgery is complete, and it even gives patients the opportunity to point out – on a life-sized model – what they do and don’t like about their current noses. With better communication in this way, patients find the entire experience – from the consultation to the surgery – much more satisfactory.
3D printing has numerous uses in the medical field. It has been used to change and even save lives in many ways. It only makes sense that 3D printing can benefit plastic surgeons and their rhinoplasty patients by giving them the opportunity to visualize the nose pre- and post-surgery.