Value of three-dimensional printing of fractures in orthopaedic trauma surgery

J Int Med Res. 2020 Jan;48(1):300060519887299. doi: 10.1177/0300060519887299. Epub 2019 Dec 8.


Objective: Information technology-based innovation is playing an increasingly key role in healthcare systems. The use of three-dimensional (3D)-printed bone fracture replicas in orthopaedic clinical practice could provide a new tool for fracture simulations and treatment, and change the interaction between patient and surgeon. We investigated the additional value of 3D-printing in the preparation and execution of surgical procedures and communication with patients, as well as its teaching and economic implications.

Methods: Fifty-two patients with complex articular displaced fractures of the calcaneus, tibial plateau, or distal radius were enrolled. 3D-printed real-size models of the fractured bone were obtained from computed tomography scans and exported to files suitable for 3D-printing. The models were handled by trauma surgeons, residents, and patients to investigate the potential advantages and procedural improvements. The patients’ and surgeons’ findings were recorded using specific questionnaires.

Results: 3D-printed replicas of articular fractures facilitated surgical planning and preoperative simulations, as well as training and teaching activities. They also strengthening the informed consent process and reduced surgical times and costs by about 15%.

Conclusion: 3D-printed models of bone fractures represent a significant step towards more-personalized medicine, with improved education and surgeon–patient relationships.

Keywords: 3D-printing; education; fracture; informed consent; planning; rapid prototyping; surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / instrumentation
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods*
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Orthopedics
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation*
  • Trauma Centers*
  • Wounds and Injuries / surgery*