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Why Virtual 3D Planning is Crucial to Orthopedic Surgery at Yale

Lisa L. Lattanza, MD, FAAOS, FAOA, Chair of the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation at the Yale School of Medicine, discusses why 3D virtual planning is crucial to the future of orthopaedic medicine.

3D Patient-Specific Surgical Correction Program

Our Orthopaedic surgery team is dedicated to improving function in patients of all ages who have been injured, have developed a problem such as arthritis, or were born with a bone or joint problem. Although there are standard ways to treat these problems, our team can more precisely address many orthopaedic issues with the use of 3D modeling and virtual surgical planning using 3D printed patient-specific surgical guides.

Our Approach

Patients that have complex orthopaedic problems are evaluated by our specialists. If the problem is amenable to treatment with custom 3D surgical correction techniques a decision is then made by the surgeon as to whether only bone models are necessary or whether the patient will benefit from virtual surgical planning using specialized computer software to analyze and plan correction of the problem. In all cases, a specialized high-resolution CT or MRI scan is obtained focusing on just the injured side (if only bone models are needed) or of the injured and non-injured analogous body part (right injured and left normal elbow for example) if virtual surgical planning and intra-operative patient-specific guides are necessary.

Using the data in the CT or MRI scan, a unique 3D model is built on the computer using specialized image processing software. The 3D models are then used to study the deformity/injury in detail prior to the actual surgery. The planning is completed with the surgeon and biomedical engineer working together manipulating the images on a computer in 3D to plan the necessary cuts or bone excision to correct the deformity. Surgeons are able to make certain that the bones are corrected and straight, joints can bend and extend, and muscles and nerves are properly positioned. Patient-specific guides are then printed in 3D for use in the operating room during surgery so that the virtual model can be replicated in the surgery for precise correction of each individual patient’s problem.

These techniques have been shown to decrease surgical time and blood loss as well as provide for more precise correction of the problem.

Our Team

We have orthopaedic surgical specialists (pediatrics, hand and upper extremity, spine, arthroplasty, spine, foot and ankle, sports) who are currently using 3D technology to correct spinal deformity, post-traumatic mal-unions of long bones, congenital upper and lower limb deformities, complex joint replacement surgery (hip, knee, shoulder, elbow) and mal-alignment of joints and bones. We work closely with engineers, radiologists and cutting-edge medical companies who assist in deploying this technology for our patients.