3D-printing technology has been used to make toys, decorations,
and even musical instruments, but IU Health has discovered a way to use them to improve patient care.
“We can personalize medicine,” said Brian Overshiner, IU Health’s 3D innovations lab manager.
Brian tucked away inside University Hospital, keeps a close eye on the work his 3D printers produce. Overshiner worked as a radiation therapist for over a decade before discovering his passion for printing.
He further explained, “I treated cancer patients for a decade and a half, and 3D printing was a personal hobby of mine that I picked up.”
He began by printing work-related pieces and parts. Years later, however, “it has now snowballed into a full-fledged 3D lab.”
He can now print almost anything the healthcare system requires.
“So we can print the anatomy of patients and then surgeons can pre-plan their complex surgery cases and kind of eliminate problems before they go into the operating room,” Overshiner explained. “Everything from mobility aids for rehab patients to prototypes for researchers at the school of medicine.”
They’ve grown and expanded into the lab they have now since 2017, with multiple printers and materials running at all times.
“We can tailor treatment devices to individual patients,” Overshiner said.
He’s able to create models that can print and show heart defects firsthand, allowing him to better educate their healthcare staff.
“We can learn by seeing, reading, and looking at pictures or videos,” said Heather Humphery, a nursing professional development practitioner at Riley Hospital for Children.
Children’s hearts are small, roughly the size of a fist and sometimes no larger than a strawberry, according to Humphery.
As a result,
these large, 3D-printed models that can show parents the type of heart defect or health issues their child is dealing with up close have become an important way for doctors to explain health issues and how they care for patients.
“Light bulbs turn on very quickly,” Humphery explained.
“Just seeing that there, you can visualize where that hole is and what might be required to close it,” said Riley pediatric cardiologist Dr Jyoti Patel.
Patel claims that switching from pen and paper to 3D models has allowed them to show parents exactly what kind of problem their child is having and that it has made a huge difference.
With technology evolving and improving what they can print out,
Overshiner believes these 3D models will have a significant impact on patient healthcare in the coming years.
“It has a lot more potential. We’ve only scratched the surface, “According to Overshiner.