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3D printing is helping improve outcomes while saving time and costs.

Use of 3D-printed prosthetics may not yet be routine, but orthopedic laboratories and surgical suites across central Ohio are already using the technology for precision, savings and better patient outcomes.

Orthopedic surgeons can now offer longer-lasting ankles, knees, hips and cranial repairs by using imaging to produce full-scale 3D models of a patient’s bone structure and then rehearsing the precise incisions, pins and grids to support the repair and healing process. It not only saves time in the operating room, but also provides better fit and destroys less of the patient’s existing bone.

Ohio State University and foot and ankle specialists at OhioHealth are forging ahead with 3D printing, training and education. They are part of medical 3D printing growth of 20-25 percent a year, while 3D printing overall is projected to grow from about $7 billion this year to $17 billion in 2020, according to consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

The Dean Lab at OSU Wexner Medical Center specializes in research and surgical applications for computer-assisted design and manufacturing and 3D printing of cranial and facial implants, with a team of more than 20 researchers, post-doctoral students and residents, says David Dean, an associate professor in the Department of Plastic Surgery for whom the lab is named.

Meanwhile, OhioHealth hosts the independent Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center at its Westerville Medical Campus. The leader of the practice, orthopedic surgeon Greg Berlet, MD, is an advocate for 3D innovation, serving as co-editor of the bimonthly publication Foot & Ankle Specialist and training post-doctoral students in Columbus and globally.

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