Those images are then uploaded with computer-aided design software to create a virtual model of the vascular system; the model is then used by a Stratasys 3D printer to recreate a physical model of the patient's blood vessels leading to the aneurism.
Anthony Vicari, a 3D printing analyst with Lux Research, said that while the ability to model organs -- and even aneurisms -- through 3D printing is not new, he's never heard of a 3D printer creating an entire vascular system from groin to brain.
Prior to 3D printing, creating vasculature models took from seven to 10 days using silicon and a mold created from a radiological image, according to Siddiqui.
The life-sized vascular replicas are 3D printed at the Jacobs Institute utilizing a flexible photopolymer material called TangoPlus on a Stratasys Objet Eden260VS professional 3D Printer. The material mimics the feel of human tissue and its vascular structure. By accurately reproducing an aneurysm's geometry, doctors can conduct a range of new testing and simulations to devise potential treatments.
The Jacobs Institute A 3D printed stroke model with embedded, simulated clot in middle cerebral artery.
"It's a true replication of the entire vasculature system," Siddiqui said. "This simulates the actual procedure from soup to nuts. The vessel feel is exactly similar to human vasculature. That's what's really cool about the materials we're using from Stratasys."
Siddiqui said he and other researchers are working with Stratasys to use multilayered 3D printing to not only create the surface tension of blood vessels but the distensibility of the vasculature -- whether it's flimsy in the human brain or less flexible and hard like in the heart.
"By 3D printing models that mimic vascular feel, we can create an approach I don't think is achievable any other way," said Michael Springer, director of operations at The Jacobs Institute.
Apart from speeding up the process, 3D printing models reduce costs from a couple thousand dollars to a few hundred, Siddiqui said.
Stratasys Stratasys' Objet Eden260VS professional 3D Printer used to print patient vasculature models.
While surgeons have been using the 3D printed models for pre-operative practice, the models are expected to also help doctors in training.
"So residents in training actual practicing physicians can perform stroke intervention," Siddiqui said. "Physicians can do repeated operations on these models."
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