Surgeons practice on 3D-printed brains

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

3D printing brains
3D-printed brain coming right up!

If a surgeon was probing your brain with a sharp object, I’m sure you’d want them to have as much practice as possible. While Google Glass may offer medical students a way to experience operations from a surgeon’s point of view, it’s not the same as hands-on practice. Well, faculty from the University of Florida are ensuring their surgeons get the right training with 3D-printed brains.

First, a patient’s head is scanned with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) machines – both of which provide a detailed view of the brain. From there, the images are sent to a 3D printer that crafts operation-ready practice versions!

“We can create a physical model, so the residents learn to put their hands in the right position,” said Dr. Frank Bova, head of the university’s radiosurgery/biology lab, which produces the training simulators. “When they get their first patient, they’re not learning five different new skills.”

In fact, the doctors-in-training can receive a “mixed reality” experience, because they can watch their surgical progress on a separate imaging machine as well. That way, a trainee can insert a medical tool in the 3D-printed brain and track their progress on a screen, just like a real surgeon would. “This is a much safer approach,” Bova said. He and his team are building a library for students, which will be filled with previous surgery cases ready for use in 3D-printed versions.

As of now, the researchers are studying how well their system enhances a surgeon’s performance, but they have good reason to be optimistic.

Featured image courtesy of digitalbob8 on Flickr. Image of 3D-printed brain courtesy of Yash Mulgaonkar on YouTube.