3D Printing: The Future of Medicine
Updated: Mar 15
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Medicine has been advancing since we first discovered medicine. With new innovations and research happening every day in the medical field, thousands of new ideas are spread all over the globe between scientists. A relatively new technology, 3D Printing, has swept the medical field, bringing with it hundreds of new opportunities for patient care. Cleveland Clinic named 3D printed medical products as one of the top 10 medical innovations of the year in 2019, and new advances are being made every day with this technology. Its prospects for the future of prosthesis and even transplantation shine a new light onto the field of medicine.
What is Prosthesis?
Prosthetics are the fabrication and fitting of artificial limbs or body parts. Artificial legs and hands are mass produced and given to patients who need them. However, patients with prosthetics often have complaints, from phantom pains to being uncomfortable with a leg that is not their own. Better robotics have helped give the same range of motion and flexibility, but the problem remains. However, with 3D printing, there is a chance that these problems can end altogether.
What is Transplantation?
Organ transplantation is defined as the process of removing a diseased body part and replacing it with a healthy one from another source. Some organs are harder to transplant than others, such as the heart. Livers are very easy to transplant, since they regenerate so quickly. Organs are not the only body parts that require transplantation, however - with bone cancer and other diseases, parts such as a collarbone may require removal. That is where 3D Printing comes in.
What are the Advantages of 3D Printing in Prosthetics and Transplantation?
Without a doubt, the largest and most important advantage a 3D printed medical product has, is that it can be patient-specific. This means that prosthetics can be custom tailored to a patient's needs. In the field of prosthetics, this could drastically reduce the amount of discomfort that comes with a prosthetic limb, since it can be custom made to the same size or shape it was before. This has use in the military, for the use of the general public, and much more. These prosthetics have been also shown to decrease phantom limb pain.
In the field of transplantation, 3D printers have huge implications. Not only can custom-made products be created, but procedures can be done that would be otherwise impossible or extremely difficult. For example, a student was able to print an entire larynx to replace a broken one. This same technology was also used to replicate the larynx of an ancient 3,000 year old mummy. By imitating the shape of the mummy's voice box in the 3D printer, historians were able to find out what the mummy's voice was like. 3D printers can also be used for the replacement of bones, and can save thousands of dollars while doing so.
In conclusion, 3D printers have massive implications for the future of medicine. No longer will patients be given mass produced products or prosthetics. They could be given patient-specific limbs, tailored to their wants or medical needs. 3D printers have already become a staple in many cutting-edge medical facilities, and are quickly growing in popularity all over the globe.