To G, Hawke JA, Larkins K, et al. A systematic review of the application of 3D-printed models to colorectal surgical training. Tech Coloproctol. 2023;27(4):257-270

PMID: 36738361


Background: The aim of this review was to explore the role of three-dimensional (3D) printing in colorectal surgical education and procedural simulation, and to assess the effectiveness of 3D-printed models in anatomic and operative education in colorectal surgery.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines to identify relevant publications relating to the use of 3D-printed models in colorectal surgery in an educational context. The search encompassed OVID Medline, Web of Science and EMBASE including papers in English published from 1 January 1995 to 1 January 2023. A total of 1018 publications were screened, and 5 met the criteria for inclusion in this review.

Results: Four distinct 3D models were described across five studies. Two models demonstrated objective benefits in the use of 3D-printed models in anatomical education in academic outcomes at all levels of learner medical experience and were well accepted by learners. One model utilised for preoperative visualisation demonstrated improved operative outcomes in complete mesocolic excision compared with preoperative imaging review, with a 22.1% reduction in operative time (p < 0.001), 9.2% reduction in surgical duration (p = 0.035) and 37.3% reduction in intraoperative bleeding volume amongst novice surgeons (p < 0.01). Technical simulation has been demonstrated in a feasibility context in one model but remains limited in scope and application on account of the characteristics of available printing materials.

Conclusions: 3D printing is well accepted and effective for anatomic education and preoperative procedural planning amongst colorectal surgeons, trainees and medical students but remains a technology in the early stages of its possible application. Technological advancements are required to improve the tissue realism of 3D-printed organ models to achieve greater fidelity and provide realistic colorectal surgical simulations.