3D Printing an Opportunity for Radiology Practices

May 18, 2016

Printing bone models using 3D printers can add to radiology services, from a study at ACR 2016.

Radiologists who are interested in bringing 3D printing into their practice, and provide 3D printed bone models to clinicians and patients, will add value to their practice, according to a presentation at the 2016 annual meeting of the American College of Radiology.

Radiologists from New York and Pennsylvania provided a step-by-step workflow to guide readers from acquisition of CT image data to consultation with referring clinicians using a 3D printed bone model. Fabrication in this workflow entailed the use of a low-cost consumer 3D printer, which is the extent of direct cost required to establish an in-house 3D printing service. All image postprocessing was performed using open source software.

For this purpose, the radiologists obtained CT images of the head, for routine clinical indication, and developed a model that reveals relevant landmarks (sella, orbits, skull base foramina, craniocervical junction). This was imported into a file that was readable by a consumer 3D printer, and the final product was reviewed by the referring clinician.

In all, the process to completed model took approximately 50 hours, with an estimated cost for material at $11.00. While the finished product was not considered to be as uniform as it would have been if printed by an institutional grade printer, the reviewer did not feel this affected the model’s utility.

The radiologists concluded that as the interest in 3D printing grows, radiologists who have the skill set and interest in undertaking 3D printing will be able to offer 3D printed bone models to both interested clinicians and patients, resulting in an unprecedented opportunity at a nominal fixed and per-case cost.