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A Clinical Study of 3D Printing DIEP Flap Procedures

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Conference Abstract: Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator Flap (DIEP) surgical procedures have benefited in recent years from the introduction of 3D-printed models. Yet, new technologies are expanding design opportunities that promise to improve patient specific care. Numerous studies utilizing 3D printed models for DIEP, have shown a reduction of surgical time and complications when used in addition to the review of standard CT imaging. Now, with new technology, highly detailed multi-material 3D printed models are allowing more of the information from medical imaging to be expressed in 3D printed models. This additional data, coupled with advanced digital modeling tools harnessing both voxel and mesh based modeling environments, is allowing for an expanded library of modeling techniques which create a wealth of concepts surgeons can use to assemble a presurgical planning model tailored to their particular setting, equipment, and needs.
A DIEP flap procedure requires locating the inferior epigastric perforator vessels traversing and perforating the rectus abdominis muscle, perfusing the abdominal fatty tissue. The goal of dissecting the inferior epigastric perforator vessels is complicated by the opacity of the fatty tissue and muscle. Previous attempts to 3D print patient specific models for DIEP flap cases from CT imaging has shown a wide range of designs which only show variations of perforator arteries, fatty tissue, and the abdominis rectus muscle. A limitation of digital surface based modeling tools has led to existing models lacking the ability to composite critical anatomical features, such as differentiation of vessels through different tissues, coherently into one model, providing information more akin to the surgical challenge. We have leveraged a voxel based modeling environment to composite complex modeling elements and incorporate a ruled grid upon the muscle providing effortless ‘booleaning’ and measured guidance. The results of a 38 person clinical study and showed a significant reduction in operating time.
  • Nicholas Jacobson
    Clinical Design Research Faculty
    University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus