The soft glow
of Amy Alexander’s alarm clock in the darkness toyed with
her attempt to fall back to sleep. Her thoughts wandered to
the job she left on the printer the night before. Knowing she
wouldn’t rest until she knew it was running smoothly, Amy
headed into work early.
As part of the
Anatomic Modeling Lab at Mayo Clinic, Amy, a biomedical
engineer, pressed print the day before on a life-sized 3-D
model of a 35-year-old man’s face for a surgeon preparing to
repair a misaligned jaw.
which took about 12 hours to complete, ran through the night
to be ready in time. It held the key to the surgeon’s
preparation to restore the man’s ability to perform
seemingly simple tasks such as eating solid foods.
particular craniofacial surgery, the surgeon planned to take
three pieces of the patient’s leg bone and attach it to the
jaw — a procedure he had done many times before. But,
because he had a model of the patient’s exact facial
anatomy, he was able to rehearse the surgery and knew in
advance precisely where to make the cuts and what to expect
during the operation, making the procedure quicker and less
invasive. This surgical simulation supports better outcomes
and faster recovery times.
very visual, and 3-D models represent another way to look
inside a patient, look at the disease,” says Jonathan M.
Morris, M.D., a neuroradiologist and co-director of Mayo
Clinic’s 3-D modeling lab. “Surgeons can hold, manipulate
and see a specific patient’s anatomy with a clarity that
cannot be replicated in two dimensions on a computer.”