Practical clinical applications of 3-D printing in cardiovascular surgery
The authors are an engineer and two surgeons who developed a shared interest in three-dimensional (3-D) printing of the ascending aorta in 2000, leading to the development of a customised external support for the Marfan aortic root (1). The invitation from the Journal of Thoracic Disease to write on the subject of 3-D printing provides an opportunity to briefly illustrate some existing, practical but very different applications. The fundamental attraction of 3-D printing over the usual range of surgical illustrations is that it provides a ‘graspable’ object (2). The word ‘graspable’ which we have borrowed from Regnier, is particularly appropriate in this context in that it indicates a physical object which the surgeon can literally grasp, manipulate in the hands (3,4), and cut in operative rehearsals (5). Being able to manipulate the object while simultaneously viewing it may have a significant impact on the understanding of 3-D anatomy by the surgeon.