Will 3D Printing Revolutionize Sinus Medicine?
You may have seen this story here, here or here. The details are simple – a baby born with a condition known as tracheobronchomalacia, which can result in a closed airway, was in dire straits when doctors hit upon a novel solution. Using detailed imaging and their own technical know-how, they “printed out” a fully custom, flawlessly constructed splint from medical grade materials. The splint worked exactly as planned, creating an airway that should last for a few years before being absorbed harmlessly into the body.
This story is just the tip of the iceberg. One of the great barriers for medical devices has always been the prohibitive cost of fabrication. These devices typically cannot be mass produced if they are to meet a patient’s needs, and custom fittings have traditionally cost thousands of dollars.
3D printing will soon drop the cost of fabrication close to zero, and make some of the most promising medical implants and parts widely available. Today it’s tracheal splints and sinus surgery training tools; tomorrow it could be hips, hands and hearts. 3D printing is poised to change everything about the way medical devices are designed and marketed. Stay tuned for more of these stories as the art and science of medical technology moves from GE into your living room.