Hampton VA Medical Center
3D Printing Improves Vets Lives
The development of real time solutions to complex problems – in this instance the fabrication of customized prosthetic devices to drive Veteran autonomy – is the premise behind work being done by Hampton VAMC and Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) researchers as they look at ways to integrate 3D printing technology and medicine for the benefit of local Veterans.
3D printing technology, which evolved from the same advances that serve as the foundation for stereo lithographic printers and the everyday laser and inkjet printing devices people use at work, was patented in 1980 and has seen tremendous strides and adoption from plastics and industrial manufacturing into the medical space. From utilizing the technology to develop preoperative models for surgeons s and physicians to practice and plan procedures, to crafting patient specific parts for medical devices, Hampton physicians are taking the tech to the next level.
According to Dr. Jose Morey, a Hampton radiologist and professor at EVMS, the work at Hampton will have real benefits for Veterans due to cost effectiveness and short turnaround times.
“We have shown that our veterans can have their prosthetics in 1-2 days as opposed to 3-6 months which is the current standard here at Hampton,” Morey said. “We have also shown that we could decrease the cost from 200,000 or more to less than 1000 per patient. This would save the facility millions of dollars that could then be reinvested to expand services for our veterans.”
Morey noted that EVMS, which enjoys a partnership with Hampton to train the next generation of Virginia health care professionals and physicians who serve Veterans, has been a leader in finding practical uses for 3D printing technology in medicine.
“EVMS has been in the 3D printing space for several years in regards to medical student and resident education,” he said. “They have several types of educational kits that are printed including to practice fetal and emergent ultrasound and to practice ophthalmologic surgery.”
Morey, along with colleagues at EVMS, the University of Virginia, IBM and Emory University were recently published in an article in the Journal of the American College of Radiology where they described the benefits of adopting 3D technology and their efforts to pilot a unit that would serve as a dedicated hub for its advancement.
“We could set up one facility to be the hub for these prosthetics - scans would be sent to one facility where they would be processed and printed out and then shipped back to the respective sister site. The cost from one patient alone would be sufficient to fund one or two printers alone. The impact it would have on the budgets of the facilities and VISN is astronomical,” Morey said.
“The impact it would have on the vets is equally as large. From the prosthetics we have already discussed, we could tailor surgeries to the individual vet by printing out their pathology prior to surgery and we could reduce surgical complications, Operating Room time and improve outcomes (less deaths and faster time to home) with this type of technology.”
Morey and his colleagues have drafted a white paper outlining the benefits of piloting the 3D Medical Fabrication Lab as a partnership between the Hampton VAMC and EVMS.
A link to the Journal of the American College of Radiology article is available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27236288.