The three-dimensional printing renaissance of individualized anatomical modeling: Are we repeating history?

Clin Anat. 2020 Apr;33(3):428-430. doi: 10.1002/ca.23545. Epub 2020 Jan 8.


Three-dimensional (3D) printing has revolutionized individualized medicine for patient-specific anatomical modeling and surgical planning. The surge of investigations in model creation for preoperative assessments and patient education has demonstrated improvements in both operative factors and patient satisfaction. In addition, recent technologic advances in 3D printing techniques have provided a resource to create visually pleasing models with chromatic cues for segmentation of adjacent structures. Despite these advances, an important consideration that has yet to be addressed is the quality of representation of the not only the form of structures created, but also the functional relationships of each structure. Jean François Fernel (1497-1558 AD) recognized a similar trend in anatomic innovation over 500 years ago, and sparked a series of texts that challenged the superficial anthropocentric views of the time and led to the foundation of physiologic principles that shaped modern medical philosophy. Accurately generating anatomical structures are directly related to discerning true physiologic function, and a comprehensive understanding of both is essential to hold accountability in fidelity for individualized 3D printing.

Keywords: 3D printing; anatomic modeling; medical education; surgical planning; surgical simulation.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Patient-Specific Modeling / trends*
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional*