VA, GE Healthcare partner to expand use of 3D printing in care

The Department of Veterans Affairs is entering an initiative to accelerate the use of three-dimensional printing in patient care.

One of the VA’s regional systems, VA Puget Sound Health Care System—has announced an effort to work with GE Healthcare to accelerate the use of 3D printing in patient care.

The project aims to reduce the time it takes for radiologists to create 3D-printed model and prosthetics to a matter of minutes. The partners say the initiative, when fully mature, could benefit the VA’s 9 million patients, while informing future research, development and scalability of 3D printing applications in healthcare.

3D Print3-CROP.jpg

As part of the research agreement, GE Healthcare will provide software and work stations, and the VA will provide input on its use of the technology. Previously, the VA has used 3D software that is not designed for medical use. Now, the VA will use GE software designed specifically for the medical field.

Building on its 3D printing network, VA Puget Sound and the Veterans Health Administration Innovators Network will integrate GE Healthcare’s advanced visualization AW VolumeShare workstations with 3D printing software across its facilities in Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Salt Lake City.

VA radiologists specializing in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics and other areas will use this technology and software to develop new 3D imaging approaches and techniques.

3D printing is primarily used to manufacture orthopedic implants and guide surgical cutting. Recent industry and regulatory advancements such as the establishment of clinical guidelines, 3D printing reimbursement tracking codes, and the integration of technology and software are expected to support the widespread adoption of point-of-care 3D printing in hospitals.

“For most radiologists, 3D images are limited to reconstructions on a computer screen,” says Beth Ripley, MD, VA Puget Sound radiologist, VA Innovation Specialist and VHA 3D Printing Advisory Committee chair. “By harnessing the power of 3D printing with a rich data set, we are able to pull images out of the screen and into our hands, allowing us to interact with the data in a deeper way to fuel innovative, personalized care based on the unique needs of each of our patients.”

The use of 3D medical printing in healthcare is still very much in its infancy, and software designed exclusively for the medical community is limited, Ripley adds. Software designed to eable manual preparation of image data into 3D printable files can be labor intensive, requiring hours of work.

Using GE Healthcare’s advanced visualization tool, VA radiologists expect they will be able to produce models of normal and pathological anatomy using automation techniques that will accelerate the pre-3D printing preparation work and the diagnostic process.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.