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3D printing being used to train young surgeons

Canadian plastic surgeons create hand model to teach fracture pinning

WINNIPEG, May 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ - A group of Canadian plastic surgeons have used 3D printing to create a realistic hand model to help young surgeons learn valuable surgical skills.

A surgical pin is placed into a bone visible under the transparent skin of the hand model used to teach young surgeons. (CNW Group/The University of Manitoba Section of Plastic Surgery)

"Surgery is a highly technical profession which requires years to master," says Dr. Michal Brichacek, a plastic surgeon and a lead author of the study. "Young surgeons often learn in a graduated training model, where they are given more responsibilities as their skills progress. Although under the careful eye of their teachers, these young surgeons must begin to develop their skills somewhere."

In the past, this meant practicing on actual patients. However, as technology has improved, so have opportunities for young surgeons to learn in a safe, controlled environment. This improves surgeon training, as well as patient outcomes.

Many simple hand fractures can be treated without making large incisions by utilizing metal pins which are placed through the skin. This looks deceptively easy, but is actually quite challenging to perform. This is a procedure that is done by feel - the surgeon cannot see the pin after it enters the skin.

"To help teach young surgeons these skills, we created a realistic three-dimensional model with bones which can be drilled into," says Dr. Christian Petropolis, a plastic surgeon and pioneer of the technology. "We made the joints all mobile as they would be in a real hand, but the skin is translucent so that young surgeons can better gain an appreciation for the wires once they enter the skin."

Initial feedback to the model has been very favorable by both young aspiring surgeons, as well as by established surgeons.

"To make the model even more realistic, we incorporated iron into the plastic bones so that they would be visible under X-Ray," says Dr. Julian Diaz, a training plastic surgeon and developer of the model. "This lets young surgeons use a portable X-ray machine to assess their work, just like they would in the operating room."

About the Authors:
This study was completed by Canadian plastic surgeons from The University of Toronto (Dr. Michal Brichacek), The University of Manitoba (Dr. Julian Diaz, Dr. Christian Petropolis), as well as from The University of Ottawa (Dr. Sarah Shiga).

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