Science seems to evolve faster than anyone predicts. It’s easy to feel as though you are out of the loop in only a blink of an eye. There are so many different treatment techniques or medications that didn’t exist even ten years ago.
Sometimes, these new things can seem scary and make doctor’s appointments pretty intimidating. Keeping on top of the latest medical technologies helps prepare you for your trip to the doctor. While no one can expect you to learn everything and anything there is to know about medicine; some basic principles are easy to understand when worded the right way.
You may even find this information to be fun and exciting to learn! One incredible innovation that may surprise you is that 3-D printing is making its way to a practice near you.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, or three-dimensional printing, refers to a technique where special printers can print items of multiple dimensions. In other words, you can print things that are not just on flat pieces of paper.
Users need to give the printer a file that acts as a blueprint. You can easily find thousands of free design files online.
Different machines can create items of varying sizes, purposes, and materials. These used to be machines that were rather exclusive to universities or fancy companies. Nowadays, some people even have these in their homes. Many artists and factories use these tools to mass–produce products.
How can this be used in medicine?
The applications of 3D printing spread far beyond little figurines or elegant vases. 3D components comprise every part of us. From our bones to our organs, everything is 3D. Theoretically, you need to find a material to print with that is compatible with our biology.
There are many cases were animal enthusiasts took 3D printing to the next level. In addition to making little wheelchairs or habitats for animals, some innovators developed animal prosthetics.
One famous example lies with birds. Birds rely on their beaks for a lot of daily activities. When their beak is damaged or broken, it leaves them vulnerable to predators and hinders their ability to get food. In some cases, the open beak can leave them suspectable to diseases and infection.
Now, many beak-less birds found a better chance of survival thanks to the help of dedicated rescuers and 3D printed beaks. They are incredibly durable, and when properly fit, stay in place for a long time to come.
3D printers are an asset at many rescue centers – but these feats aren’t limited to wild animals.
Humans of all backgrounds can also benefit from these technologies.
3D Printing Hard Tissues
We can start with an extreme example. Consider your family gets into an accident, and one of the passengers lost their limb. Losing a limb disrupts the normalcy of life, and it is a difficult journey to get back “normal.”
The most obvious treatment would be to consider a prosthetic limb.
Prosthetics are an expensive investment. Even the lower-end models easily cost thousands of dollars. They take a lot of time and resources to customize and create. The worst part? Children or teenagers that use prosthetics will likely grow out of them and need replacements down the line.
Making sure that you have an appropriately sized prosthetic is crucial for pain management. Having ill-properly fitting devices can lead to improper weight distribution and posture, which may ultimately result in lower back pain. A lot of research suggests that the high levels of back pain associated with amputees corresponds to poor prosthetics.
3D printing offers an affordable, fast, and easy way to create highly customized prosthetics for people to use. Making these things is not just beneficial for people who are missing a limb, though.
Medical experts use 3D printers to create a whole range of medical equipment. From casts to support devices, diagnoses from whiplash to herniated discs may benefit from a little 3D printing.
3D Printing Soft Tissues
That is just the tip of the iceberg when looking at advances brought forth by 3D printing technology. Arguably, the most impressive feat yet is related to soft tissues.
As the name suggests, soft tissues refer to the softer parts of your body – such as organs. A significant amount of research investigates the applications of 3D printing and soft tissues.
Some aspects of this use incredibly flexible materials that the body doesn’t reject. In other words, it would be like using 3D printed parts to tape the body back up. The materials used allow the printed pieces to act as a foundation for cellular attachment, vascularization, and nutrient transportation.
With the right blueprints and tools, the applications are limitless!
We are actually just a few steps away from an accomplishment of science fiction!
By using specially designed, bio-engineered tissues, 3D printing is the latest upgrade in regenerative medicine. This field looks explicitly at restoring or replacing damaged organs.
Preliminary research seems to be promising. 3D printers have successfully created working tissue. Of course, this highly complex method is still in testing. We may not be so far away from a future when we can print out a new heart valve or liver as needed.
Thank you for listening, and stay tuned to learn more about how you can stay up-to-date with the latest personal injury news.
About RMG Talks
Regional Medical Group is launching a new podcast series called RMG Talks. To connect with our audience at home, during these uncertain times. RMG Talks is a personal injury medical and law informational podcast channel that offers next-level entertainment and business news to its listeners. Hosted by our RMG team, we are now streaming on all major listening platforms. Start listening, https://rmgtalks.com/