3D printed organs for TV series Grey’s Anatomy!

A 3D Printed Heart and Liver Were Recently Featured on the Popular TV Series Grey’s Anatomy!


Greys Anatomy 3d printer

Gray’s Anatomy, the textbook of human anatomy originally written by Henry Gray and illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter, was widely regarded as the seminal work on the subject and it’s still revised and republished today.

Since its publication in 1858, it has served as a crucial guide to doctors and surgeons in their daily work, but it’s a safe bet that Gray and Carter didn’t see it coming that their work would one day influence hospital dramas like ABC’s hit “Grey’s Anatomy,” and less likely still that they’d foresee that show discovering 3D printing.

Now that 3D printing technology has reached into the operating theater,  the American consciousness, and even into living rooms in the heartland, Gray and Carter would surely be proud.

The doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial were featured using 3D printing in one episode from season 10 where Dr. Yang 3D prints a “portal vein,” and Dr. Grey attempts to 3D print a heart. In fact, at the end of that episode, Dr. Yang discovers that, on her trip to Switzerland, 3D printing is widely used by medical professionals there.


One Dr. Burke goes as far as to say Dr. Yang’s dream is to build fully-functional, 3D printed hearts.

And the series is at it again with an appearance from a CubeX 3D printer which the Grey’s staff used to build a customized heart and liver model. The model of a patient’s heart and liver used on the show was designed and 3D printed by 3D Systems in conjunction with their entertainment division, Gentle Giant Studios, and it was printed by their medical solutions division,Medical Modeling.

Medical Modeling was built on the idea that medical imaging studies could be used for diagnosis and to drive clinical treatment, and they’ve developed surgical planning and clinical transfer tools. To date, the company has worked with surgeons around the world on tens of thousands of cases. They were also acquired by 3DS in April 2014, becoming part of the larger 3D printing revolution.

At this stage, engineering-based solutions for reconstructive surgical problemsare a part of the standard medical tool kit, and customized prosthetics are common.


Medical Modeling says 3D printing is used in hospitals around the world for applications ranging from surgical pre-visualization to treatment planning and training.

To make the heart model, the team used a ProJet 660Pro, taking the idea from a photo of a simple sketch on a napkin to a fully-printed model in just four days.

3DS says the anatomically correct, full-color model needed to fit the script, appear life-like, and be fully 3D printable. The creation process took place through a number of design iterations during which the “Grey’s Anatomy” production team reviewed the models and provided feedback, and the Medical Modeling team used Geomagic Freeform software to create the finished product.

Now that prime-time television has embraced the medical uses of 3D printing, how long do you think it will be before patients are asking to see models to help them understand their treatment options? Let us know in the Grey’s Anatomy Medical 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.

by  | FEBRUARY 9, 2015

Surgeries made possible by 3D printing!

A Summary of 7 Mind-Blowing Surgeries Made Possible by 3D Printing – Including Spinal Fusion Surgery and Titanium Heel Implants.


3D printing technology has enabled some truly life-changing surgeries in the past year

Though printing items like chocolate and pizza might be satisfying enough for some, 3D printing still holds a lot of unfulfilled potential. Talk abounds of disrupting manufacturing, changing the face of construction and even building metal components in space. While it is hard not to get a little bit excited by these potentially world-changing advances, there is one domain where 3D printing is already having a real-life impact. Its capacity to produce customized implants and medical devices tailored specifically to a patient’s anatomy has seen it open up all kinds of possibilities in the field of medicine, with the year 2014 having turned up one world-first surgery after another. Let’s cast our eye over some of the significant, life-changing procedures to emerge in the past year made possible by 3D printing technology.

Replacing the upper jaw

Earlier this year, the removal of an Indian man’s upper jaw due to cancer saw parts of both his nose and mouth left exposed. Things got worse for the 41-year-old after six weeks of radiotherapy, throughout which he developed radiation-induced fibrosis and lockjaw, severely impacting his ability to open his mouth.

Specialists used a CT scan to create a 3D reconstruction of the man’s face. Areplica of his mouth was then 3D-printed and used as a template to produce a wax model, which was then hardened and fitted with teeth. With the prosthesis adjusted to fit snugly in place, the man’s chewing, swallowing, speaking and other mouth movements are said to be considerably improved.

Forming a new skull

When a 22-year-old woman was suffering from a condition that caused her skull to thicken, specialists at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht were of the opinion that a partial implant would be necessary. These had been used before when sections of the skull were removed to relieve pressure on the brain, but the cement versions were not always a good fit.

The doctors worked with an Australian implant company to create a 3D model of the patient’s skull and printed an implant that would be an exact fit. While the increasing brain pressure threatened to impair the patient’s coordination and other brain functions, the 3D printed implant led her to a full recovery.

Spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is a complex procedure used to treat patients with conditions like disc degeneration and spinal instability. An important tool in this process is the spine cage, a medical device that serves as a replacement for damaged discs. By 3D printing a spine cage that had been tailored to the patient’s anatomy, a team of French surgeons was able to implant the device in a woman back in May with great results.

“The intersomatic cage, specifically printed by Medicrea for my patient, positioned itself automatically in the natural space between the vertebrae and molded ideally with the spine by joining intimately with the end plates, despite their relative asymmetry and irregularity,” said Dr. Vincent Fiere, the surgeon who performed the procedure at Hospital Jean Mermoz in Lyon, France.

Replacing cancerous vertebra

It wasn’t until a month after innocuously heading a soccer ball during a match that the entire body of a 12-year-old Chinese boy went numb. Spinal experts found that he had developed a malignant tumor on the second vertebra in his neck. In a five hour procedure conducted in August, surgeons removed the cancerous vertebra and replaced it with a 3D-printed implant.

The artificial vertebra was secured in place by titanium screws and the specialists said it was an improvement on existing methods. Typically, the patient’s head would need to supported by pins and cannot touch the bed while they are resting for around three months afterwards. But through 3D printing, the doctors could replicate the shape of the original vertebra, making it much stronger. Following the surgery, the patient was said to be in good physical condition and recovering as expected.

A titanium heel implant

Len Chandler, a 71-year-old man from Melbourne, Australia was faced with amputation below the knee after doctors diagnosed him with cancer in the heel bone. In exhausting all options, the surgeons had also been working with experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), exploring the possibility of producing a 3D-printed implant to save the patient’s lower leg.

Using schematics of the heel bone, a titanium implant was printed and inserted into Chandler’s foot in July. Three months later, he was said to be recovering well and able to place some weight on his heel again.

A 3D printed hip implant

The doctors of a 15-year-old Swedish girl suffering from a congenital disease resulting in skeletal deformations in the left hip were uncertain if she would walk again. But they then approached an implant manufacturing company called Mobelife to see what options might be available.

Mobelife used a tomography scan to create a detailed picture of the patient’s unique bone anatomy, ultimately printing an implant that would be secured with screws to the bone surrounding the defect. The operation was performed in September 2012 and eighteen months later she was walking entirely unaided.

Planning for complex heart surgery

When surgeons were approached by the parents of a 14-month-old boy born with four heart defects at Kosair Children’s Hospital in the US, they knew they had a task on their hands. But in planning for this surgery, they would be afforded the help of invaluable new-age medical tool.

Using CT scans of the baby’s heart, researchers at the University of Louisville were able to print a 3D model of the organ, measuring 1.5 times its actual size. This process took around 20 hours and cost US$600, but gave the doctors unprecedented opportunity to plan prior to a heart surgery, seeing them repair the heart’s defects in a single operation. Following his release from hospital, the boy was said to be in good health.

These are no doubt just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits 3D printing will bring to the field of medicine in the coming years, so it will be interesting to see how the technology develops.

by  | December 11, 2014