Medical 3-D printing: Q&A with Dr. Jonathan Morris, Mayo Clinic radiologist

Medical 3-D printing: Q&A with Dr. Jonathan Morris, Mayo Clinic radiologist

por John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | November 03, 2017
3D Printing
From the November 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


An error in surgery is a huge deal, and if we send something down to the OR that’s the wrong size, it can lead to a medical error. So, from the very beginning of our lab, we have been focused on quality and safety.

We don’t get the 3-D models reimbursed right now, but Mayo’s overriding principle is the needs of the patient come first. We were doing the printing pro bono at first, and as we kept showing that this improves care, we went for more resources and committed to offering this service.

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HCB News: What are the next steps for medical 3-D printing?
JM: It still takes talented surgeons to use this technology. 3-D printing is just another tool at their disposal to be innovative, do procedures that they probably didn’t think they could do less invasively and have better outcomes.

We’ve worked with the FDA for the past three years to help guide regulations. These things are starting to be used to make medical decisions, so there is going to be some regulation.

Eventually, we’ll try and develop reimbursement codes. The Japanese health system reimburses for medical 3-D models for oncological care, and some places in England are starting to consider it. So, it’s going to happen. For the surgeons, it’s such a no-brainer thing to do.

Also, there are a lot of bottlenecks for 3-D printing. The segmentation software is not user-friendly from a physician standpoint because the software was designed for engineers to use. An adult bone is just a few clicks, but if we want an adult bone with arteries, veins, kidneys, tumor, that can take four hours to segment. So, I think the next frontier will involve improving the efficiency of 3-D printing in complex oncology cases and heart surgery.

In the world of bioprinting, the next frontier is to begin to be able to print scaffolds that you put inside the body where bone will actually grow along the scaffold. Those are already out of large animal trials and moving into human trials. There is a skin printing trial that is ongoing. So, in the bioprinting world, to be able to print bone, cartilage or at least scaffolds where these will grow is a big deal.

We strongly believe that 3-D should be under the umbrella of radiology. The radiologists know the images the best, know the anatomy the best and know where the tumors are the best. We should be the ones doing the segmentation. All specialties come through radiology. If you get 3-D printing popping up like mushrooms in every department with no quality check, then there are all these printers operating with no oversight. Then, eventually, there will be a medical error.

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