3D Printing for Surgical Planning

This information is useful for children, adults, and older adults
3-D Printing Equipment
Why Yale Medicine?
  • Dedicated technologist creating and printing 3-D surgical models on site
  • Some of the most technologically advanced equipment available
  • Rapid imaging interpretations by experts in the radiology field

Three-dimensional (3-D) printing is now being used to help doctors plan patients' surgeries. Individually created 3-D models help surgeons better understand the unique anatomy of a patient before heading into the operating room.

“Not all anatomy can be easily or even fully understood from a book,” says James Brown, MD, a radiologist who is the co-founder and director of 3-D printing, and an assistant professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at Yale School of Medicine. “When a surgeon is able to have a patient-specific 3-D model to study prior to surgery, it can enhance the understanding of a patient’s anatomy that may change the approach to the surgical procedure.” 

At Yale Medicine, we have some of the most technologically advanced equipment available, including 3-D printing technology. Dedicated technologists create these surgical models on site for our surgeons when needed.

A virtual surgery model is created on a computer from MRIs or CT scans using 3-D modeling software. 

“The computer doesn’t understand anatomy, so we manually circle and color in anatomy to show, for instance, a pelvic bone with a tumor," says Dr. Brown.

Then, in consultation with the surgeon, the radiologist corrects errors and identifies what the surgeon wants to see. “The final version is agreed on, and we send it for printing,” Dr. Brown advises, “usually at life-size or a bit smaller.” Sending the image to a 3-D printer is just like sending a digital photo or drawing to a standard office printer.