Cromeens BP, Ray WC, Hoehne B, Abayneh F, Adler B, Besner GE. Facilitating surgeon understanding of complex anatomy using a three-dimensional printed model. Journal of Surgical Research. 2017,216:18-25


BACKGROUND: 3-dimensional prints (3DP) anecdotally facilitate surgeon understanding of anatomy and decision-making. However, the actual benefit to surgeons or patients has not been quantified. This study investigates how surgeon understanding of complex anatomy is altered by a 3DP compared to computed tomography (CT) scan or CT + digital reconstruction (CT + DR).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Key anatomic features were segmented from a CT-abdomen/pelvis of pygopagus twins to build a DR and printed in color on a 3D printer. Pediatric surgery trainees and attendings (n = 21) were tested regarding anatomy identification and their understanding of point-to-point distances, scale, and shape.

RESULTS: There was no difference between media regarding point-to-point distances. The 3DP led to an increased number of correct answers for questions of scale and shape compared to CT (P < 0.05). CT + DR performance was intermediate but not statistically different from 3DP or CT. Identification of anatomy was inconsistent between media; however, answers were significantly closer to correct when using the 3DP. Participants completed the test faster with the 3DP (6.6 ± 0.5 min) (P < 0.05) than with CT (18.9 ± 2.5 min) or CT + 3DR (14.9 ± 1.5 min).

CONCLUSIONS: Although point-to-point measurements were not different, 3DP increased the understanding of shape, scale, and anatomy. It enabled understanding significantly faster than other media. In difficult surgical cases with complex anatomy and a need for efficient multidisciplinary coordination, 3D printed models should be considered for surgical planning.

Link to journal: