Intracranial vasculature 3D printing: review of techniques and manufacturing processes to inform clinical practice

3D Print Med. 2020 Aug 6;6(1):18. doi: 10.1186/s41205-020-00071-8.


Background: In recent years, three-dimensional (3D) printing has been increasingly applied to the intracranial vasculature for patient-specific surgical planning, training, education, and research. Unfortunately, though, much of the prior literature regarding 3D printing has focused on the end-product and not the process. In addition, for 3D printing/manufacturing to occur on a large scale, challenges and bottlenecks specific to each modeled anatomy must be overcome.

Main body: In this review article, limitations and considerations of each 3D printing processing step, as they relate to printing individual intracranial vasculature models and providing an active clinical service for a quaternary care center, are discussed. Relevant advantages and disadvantages of the available acquisition techniques (computed tomography, magnetic resonance, and digital subtraction angiography) are reviewed. Specific steps in segmentation, processing, and creation of a printable file may impede the workflow or degrade the fidelity of the printed model and are, therefore, given added attention. The various available printing techniques are compared with respect to printing the intracranial vasculature. Finally, applications are discussed, and a variety of example models are shown.

Conclusion: In this review we provide insight into the manufacturing of 3D models of the intracranial vasculature that may facilitate incorporation into or improve utility of 3D vascular models in clinical practice.

Keywords: 3D printing; Cerebral angiography; Intracranial vasculature; Patient specific models.

Publication types

  • Review