The peri-operative utility of 3D printed models in complex surgical care: feedback from 106 cases

Connor Thorn, Jim Ballard, C Lockhart, Andrew Crone, Daniel Crawford, Alexander Aarvold 

University of Southampton

3D models are an emerging tool for surgical planning, providing an augmented method for the visualisation of a patient’s anatomy. As their use increases, more data about the utility of these models is critical to inform budget allocation. This study provides the most comprehensive analysis to date for the use of 3D models in peri-operative management.

3D models for complex surgical cases in NHS hospitals were delivered alongside a surgeon feedback survey. The survey on the model’s utility had been designed alongside the university data analytical team. This survey focussed on 5 areas: surgical planning and diagnosis, economic impact, impact on intraoperative and pre-operative time, effect on communication and direct impact on the patient.

There were 106 models used by 63 surgeons for complex surgical cases between May 2020 and March 2021, across multiple surgical specialities. Benefits were reported in all peri-operative areas, with 92.5% of responses agreeing the 3D model was a better method for diagnosis and planning than traditional 2D techniques. Benefits were reported on pre-operative planning (92.4%), economic savings due to equipment selection (54.4%), reduction in surgical time (41.5%) and surgeon to surgeon communication (92.6%).

3D models were shown to have a wide range of benefits within a surgical setting. The reduction in surgical time could have the potential to help alleviate the surgical backlog created by the COVID-19 pandemic. With more widespread use and optimisation of costs the use of 3D models could become the standard for unusual and complex surgical cases.