Researchers are 3D printing replica human vertebrae to help in surgery room (Video)

Researchers are 3D printing replica human vertebrae to help in surgery room

A project led by Nottingham Trent University aims to give trainee surgeons the “tacit knowledge” of how it feels to partly remove or drill into vertebrae before undertaking procedures on patients.

The models – which are created using powder printing technology to help achieve a lifelike porosity of real bone – feature hard outer layers and a softer centre.

“Consultants undertaking delicate and precise procedures like spinal surgery need as much knowledge and experience as possible as part of their surgical training before going into live operations,” said Professor Philip Breedon, of the university’s Design for Health and Wellbeing Group.

“One error can lead to catastrophic, life-changing consequences for a patient, so it’s imperative that surgeons can prepare themselves thoroughly.

“This research will enable clinicians to experience how performing spinal surgery feels both physically and mentally, but in a safe training environment.”

The project is in collaboration with consultant spinal surgeon Professor Bronek Boszczyk, of Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, who is a visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University.

The models are aimed at surgeons looking to perform procedures such as laminectomies, to relieve trapped nerves, which can involve the removal of bone tissue.

Individual models can also be created from CT scan data to provide accurate representations of people with complex conditions such as scoliosis.

Professor Boszczyk said: “This is an innovative project which has resulted in the development of spinal models which look, feel and behave like real bone. These models will enable surgeons to practice very delicate procedures in a training environment which will give clinicians increased confidence before they undertake real spinal operations.”


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You can get up-to-date with the latest developments in 3D Medical Printing during a two-day focused event on January 30-31, 2018, at MECC Maastricht, The Netherlands. The event includes 2 conferences and an exhibition and will deal with various medical 3D printing areas (bioprinting, prosthetics, pharmaceuticals, dental printing) and medical robotics. For more information about the program and registration, visit


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