A group of plastic surgeons at Yale is using virtual 3-D planning technology to improve surgical outcomes.
“It starts with radiology,” explained Derek Steinbacher, director of Craniofacial Surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital, referencing the fact that the planning technology uses radiology in the form of three-dimensional CT scans. In the first part of the process, CT scans of patients’ skulls are obtained, and these, in conjunction with 3-D analysis tools, are used in pre-operative planning for reconstructive surgery. 3-D planning then allows the surgeon to virtually simulate the surgery using the composite images.
Other crucial components of 3-D planning include construction of cutting guides, which assist the surgeon in performing the procedure, 3-D printing of splints and other prosthetics and the ability to review the relevant anatomical landscape in advance of the procedure. 3-D planning allows surgeons to use computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing technology to bring industrial standards of precision to the operating room, according to Rajendra Sawh-Martinez, a chief resident in Yale Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.