CAD/CAM is Transforming Reconstructive Surgery
Kyle Maxey posted on March 04, 2016 |
 A patient’s damaged jaw and the corrective implants built using CAD/CAM techniques. (Image courtesy of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.)

A patient’s damaged jaw and the corrective implants built using CAD/CAM techniques. (Image courtesy of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.)

A recently published article in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has underscored the value that CAD/CAM techniques are adding to the surgical field.

According to the article, surgeons have been able to combine digital manufacturing technologies, such as CAD, CAM and 3D printing, with more traditional medical tools, such as CT scans and virtual surgery, to improve the quality of surgical outcomes.

Specifically, doctors have been impressed with the ability of CAD/CAM technology to enhance the quality of implants for craniofacial reconstruction, but many physicians see opportunities to advance medicine in several other disciplines as well.

“As access to CT and 3D photo imaging improve, VSP (virtual surgical planning) and CAD/CAM procedures will become the standard of care," the article’s authors write.

Today, in a craniofacial surgical procedure, doctors will first take a CT scan of a patient’s head and use the 3D data generated from the scan to begin constructing a concept of how the damage can be corrected. This type of virtual surgical planning can be essential to complex operations like craniomaxillofacial procedures. Once a plan is in place, doctors will turn to CAD software to develop a 3D model of a corrective or replacement implant. Depending on the nature of the surgery, doctors can turn to either 3D printing or CAM to manufacture a bio-compatible device.

“When properly implemented, virtual surgical planning and CAD/CAM technology enhance efficiency, accuracy, reproducibility and creativity in aesthetic and craniomaxillofacial plastic surgery,” said Dr. Derek Steinbacher of Yale University.

Though digital manufacturing has long played a fundamental role in the engineering world, dramatically accelerating the speed of innovation and the accuracy of design, its introduction to the medical world has only started to gain widespread acceptance. As CAD/CAM and digital manufacturing techniques continue to become more accessible, medicine could greatly benefit from the technology’s ability to enable a world of customized patient treatments.  

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