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The Dawn of 3D Printing for Otolaryngologists

3D Printing in Otolaryngology
11:00 am – Noon
Room E351

Does your practice have a 3D printer? Probably not, but it almost certainly will in the near future. Customized airway and ear splints and other medical devices printed to fit the specific anatomic needs of individual patients are already a research reality.

“Three-dimensional printing will change the future of medicine and medical devices,” said Glenn E. Green, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery at the University of Michigan CS Mott Children’s Hospital. “We are treating patients and diseases we have never been able to treat before.”

Dr. Green is moderator of a session about the groundbreaking technology, “3D Printing in Otolaryngology.” 3D printing is moving into medical practice just as it has already moved into automobile manufacturing, aerospace, housing, electronics, and other professions.

Dr. Green’s lab is using a 3D printer to make splints to treat children with tracheobronchial malacia. Each splint is engineered to the patient’s anatomy and needs.

“The device is designed to open up the airway, stop compression from the outside, and allow it to grow,” he said. “The time from the patient coming in the door to device manufacture can be 24 hours.”

Printing medical devices is just the beginning. 3D printing also is being used to create patient-specific models to help in surgical planning and patient or parent education. Another use is high-fidelity surgical simulators for pediatric training.

“In adult procedures, many can be attempted and rehearsed in the cadaver lab,” said presenter David A. Zopf, MD, MSc, assistant professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery and affiliate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan. “That isn’t possible in pediatric procedures. We have developed high-fidelity simulations for microtia/ear reconstruction, airway reconstruction, mandibular distraction, and more that allow surgeons to practice and refine techniques.”

Dr. Zopf’s lab also is using a 3D printer to make bioresorbable tissue scaffolds to tissue-engineer patient-specific cartilage structures such as ears and noses to be used in surgical reconstruction. The scaffold is seeded with the patient’s own cartilage cells, which grow to create a living structure. Another approach is to print living tissue, a process called bioprinting.

“We have been pioneering the bioprinting of cartilage cells,” said panelist Lee P. Smith, MD, chief of pediatric otolaryngology at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New York. “The project that is farthest along is bioprinting tracheal tissue. We also can print bone tissue and cartilage tissue such as the nose and ear. 3D printing has already come into clinical use. When we look out a few years, replacement organs using 3D printing will be entering the mainstream.”

Robert J. Morrison, MD, a resident at the University of Michigan, will explore the development of a 3D-printed pediatric tracheal splint that has been engineered to permit tracheal growth and to be resorbed over time.

Todd Pielta, Materialise USA, Plymouth, MI, will discuss biomedical 3D printing applications.

“3D printing enables us to help patients we have never been able to help before,” Dr. Green said. “Progress is being made very rapidly.”

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