Back to Top 3D printing our way to better health care - The Ottawa Hospital

3D printing our way to better health care


Dr. Adnan Sheikh holds an exact replica of a patient’s pelvis that has one hip eaten away by cancer. It was made with a 3D printer.

The model, based on the patient’s CT scan, was critical to surgeons planning the complex hip replacement surgery. Seeing the extent of the damage done by the disease gave them a clear idea of how to operate. Otherwise, doctors wouldn’t have had this level of detail before the surgery.

“3D printing is revolutionizing the way we do medicine at The Ottawa Hospital,” said Dr. Adnan Sheikh, medical director for the hospital’s 3D printing program.

Revolutionizing medicine is no exaggeration. A 3D printer uses an ‘additive process’ successively laying thin layers of material on top of each other to create a three dimensional, solid object.

Thanks to a donor’s generosity, The Ottawa Hospital acquired a 3D printer that uses acrylics and plastics to print such things as the patient’s damaged pelvis.

“We’re going to print models for surgical planning and for education,” said Dr. Frank Rybicki, Chief of Medical Imaging at The Ottawa Hospital. “If somebody has cancer, we can print the actual organ to show them and explain a treatment plan.”

Knowing ahead of time exactly how to operate reduces the operating time, often by hours, resulting in significant cost savings. Saving surgery times also decreases wait times, which allows more patients to be treated.

“It means we can provide care in ways that we were not able to do before,” said Dr. Rybicki.

The Ottawa Hospital is the first hospital in Canada to have an integrated medical 3D printing program for surgical planning, education, and research. It will have general uses for cancer patients, fracture patients, orthopaedic and vascular patients, as well as for skull-based tumours. It also will open up new avenues for research.

3D printing offers incredible innovation that will help patients today and into the future. Within the next few years, the hospital will expand its program to include 3D printers capable of printing human tissue, bones and organs to implant into patients.


Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Jodie Vanasse - February 3, 2017

Would surgeons be able to use this technology to replace disintegrated vertebral discs (IE:C-Spine disks)in the near future , at the Ottawa hospital? Could they use a material compatible with the body to actually replace old discs?

You might also like…

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.