Can Preoperative 3D Printing Change Surgeon's Operative Plan for Distal Tibia Fracture?

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This study aimed to determine if 3D printing can affect surgeon's selection of plate for distal tibia fracture surgery and to find out whether orthopedic surgeons consider this technology necessary and would use it in their practice. A total of 102 orthopedic surgeons were asked to choose anatomically contoured locking plates among 5 most commonly used types for one simple and one complex distal tibia fracture based on X-ray and CT images. Next, they were provided real-size 3D printed models of the same fractures, allowed to apply each of the 5 plates to these models, and asked if they would change their choice of plate. A 10-point numeric rating scale was provided to measure the extent of the help that 3D printing provided on preoperative planning. Finally, we asked the surgeons if they would use 3D printing in their practice. Seventy-four percent of inexperienced surgeons changed their selection of plate after using 3D printed models for the complex fracture. In contrast, only 9% of experienced surgeons changed their selection of plate for the simple fracture. Surgeons rated the extent of usefulness of the 3D models in preoperative planning as a mean of 4.84 ± 2.54 points for the simple fracture and 6.63 ± 2.54 points for the complex fracture. The difference was significant (p < 0.001). Eighty-six percent of inexperienced surgeons wanted to use 3D models for complex fractures. However, only 18% of experienced surgeons wanted to use 3D printed models for simple fractures. The use of a real-size 3D-printed model often changed surgeon's preoperative selection of locking plates, especially when inexperienced surgeons evaluated a complex fracture. However, experienced surgeons did not find 3D models very useful when assessing simple fractures. Future applications of 3D models should focus on training beginners in fracture surgery, especially when complex fractures are concerned.




Kang, H. J., Kim, B. S., Kim, S. M., Kim, Y. M., Kim, H. N., Park, J. Y., … Choi, Y. (2019). Can Preoperative 3D Printing Change Surgeon’s Operative Plan for Distal Tibia Fracture? BioMed Research International, 2019.

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