The use of 3D printing for pre-operative planning has grown significantly in recent years, primarily driven by surgical demand.

In Neurosurgery, where pathologies are complex and variable, a 3D printed model can prove extremely useful for surgeons in fully explaining the extent of a patient’s pathology, discussing clinical plans and for gaining patient consent. 

A recent study carried out between the Department of Neurosurgery at a leading, internationally renowned teaching hospital based in London and Axial3D gave insight into how patients feel and respond to the use of 3D anatomical models when compared to traditional imaging such as CT and MRI scanning.   

The study was conducted with patients with neurosurgical pathologies which included arteriovenous malformations, intracranial aneurysms, primary cerebral tumors, and spinal fractures. Informed consent was obtained from all patients, and their medical images were converted into multi-material, life-size, patient-specific 3D printed models. The patients then attended a consultation and answered a Likert scale questionnaire with the addition of open-ended feedback assessing their satisfaction with the model.

A summary of the results includes an increased understanding of the clinical situation and risks of surgery, being better equipped to discuss the problem with family, and improved communication with their surgeon. Below, you’ll find the full breakdown of the results of the trial and how patients answered the survey.

An average score of 96% was given by patients when asked if having access to a 3D printed model of their pathology was a great help in improving their understanding of their clinical situation.

An average score of 96% was given in response by patients when asked if having access to a 3D printed model of their pathology was more helpful than looking at a scan.

An average score of 97% was given by patients when asked if having access to a 3D printed model of their pathology would be a great help in better explaining the problem to family members or relatives.

3D printed model neurosurgery brain tumor

An average score of 87% was given by patients when asked if having access to a 3D printed model of their pathology helped them to better understand the risks of the surgery ahead of them.

An average score of 91% was given by patients when asked if the model was detailed enough.

When asked if the 3D printed model was a great improvement when discussing clinical plans with their surgeon, patients gave an average score of 98%.

3D printed model neurosurgery aneurysm

An average score of 2.2 was given by patients when asked if the 3D printed model could cause unwanted emotions. A score of 1 was ranked ‘not at all’, while 10 was deemed ‘very much so’.

An average score of 78% was given by patients when asked if having access to a 3D printed model of their pathology increased their confidence in their surgeon.

An average score of 97% was  given by patients when asked if having access to a 3D printed model of their pathology helped them to understand the location of the problem

An average score of 97% was given by patients when asked if the 3D model helped them to understand the size of the problem or pathology.

Conclusion

“3D printed models are a useful and efficient adjunct to information giving in an outpatient setting or during the informed consent process. All patients preferred the use of models over 2D images for patient education.” – Alex Alamri, Department of Neurosurgery, Barts Health NHS Trust, The Royal London Hospital.

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