3D Printed Cadavers?

The onset of 3D printing has truly revolutionized numerous fields, such as fashion, prosthetics and Michael Weilert MD cadaverhuman organs, although medical educators have been a little more skeptical when it comes to artificial cadavers.  The 3D Printed Anatomy Series, to be sold later this year by Paul McMenamin, the director of Monash University’s Centre for Human Anatomy Education, contains life-sized replicas of all parts needed to teach the anatomy of the limbs, chest, abdomen, head and neck.  While this may replace plastic models with higher resolution models, its place in medical schools may be fairly limited.  The researchers behind the 3D printed kit used CT or surface laser scanners on real specimens to get the dimensions right, and then used printers to create parts that are much more realistic than other plastic models.

Without being able to look inside the body and see the muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels, it’s not easy for students to understand human anatomy.  Therefore, McMenamin and his colleagues believe that their version, which actually does look like the real thing, will make a huge difference.  This isn’t the first attempt at technological innovation in an anatomy class; back in 2011,a study found that virtual reality software could complement anatomy instruction with real cadavers.  And plasticized cadavers are frequently used as a sort of compromise, since they’re real bodies without any of the associated smell and fewer restrictions on handling.  However, this would be the first time that an anatomy kit made with 3D printing technologies would be made commercially available.

Even if this is a fairly innovative piece of technology, it isn’t yet able to act as a replacement for the real thing, but rather an adjunct.  Students can perform clinical procedures on a cadaver that aren’t possible with printed models, such as circothyrotomy and inserting chest tubes.  And in course evaluations, a lot of students favor actual cadaver dissection to models and virtual simulations, since it allows them to be exposed to death in a controlled setting before encountering it in the clinic.  Nonetheless, experts believe that 3D printed parts have an important place in the world of medical school.