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3D Printing Center of Excellence

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At SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, we provide world-class health care with compassion and excellence. State-of-the-art technology, combined with clinical professionals who are leaders in their fields, ensures the best possible care for our young patients.

The use of 3D printing has long been recognized as a valuable tool in health care. By using advanced software to process standard 2D images from CT scans and MRIs, doctors at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon are creating anatomically-accurate models of various organs and structures, including hearts, kidneys, blood vessels, jaws and skulls, to assist them in planning complicated, high-risk surgeries on children of all ages.

Generous community support has enabled us to launch our very own 3D Center of Excellence at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. By having a 3D printing lab onsite, models are created in a matter of hours, instead of the days or weeks it takes when using an outside lab. In many cases, sooner is better when planning and performing surgical interventions, such as a traumatic injury.

3D printers work much like standard office printers, but instead of ink, our 3D printers use surgical-grade plastic resin. Over the course of several hours, layer upon layer of material is laid down until an accurate model is created. Physicians then use these models to visualize and plan complex surgeries, and size their instruments if necessary, before the child even enters the operating room.

The added benefit of using surgical-grade material is that models can be sterilized and taken into the operating room, where surgeons can take continual measurements during surgery, ensuring even greater accuracy.

3D modeling is also being used to educate the next generation of physicians at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. Over time, we plan to build a library of 3D models of different types for medical students and residents to study.

In addition to the medical, surgical and educational applications, doctors use 3D models to explain procedures to anxious parents, giving them a clearer picture of their child’s condition and the surgeon’s plan for addressing the issue. In times of stress and uncertainty for parents, the use of 3D models has the ability to set their minds at ease.

How Your Support Will Help

3D printing is a relatively new technology and is ever-evolving. As a result, it is very expensive. However, the fact that this science is applicable to many fields of pediatric medicine, our dedicated 3D Center of Excellence is a wise investment.

Ongoing costs of running the Center include:

  •  A full-time technician to operate the 3D printers and assist doctors with making models.
  •  Ongoing technology upgrades, as newer software and hardware becomes available.
  • The cost of materials to make each model. Currently, 3D modeling is not covered by insurance, and we create the models at no cost to families. Each model costs between $100 and $1,000, depending on its size and complexity.
Dr. King holding a 3D printed model of a patient's heart
3D Printing Center of Excellence-Dr. King and Dr. Lin
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