Thursday, 4 August 2016

3D printing technology aids anatomy learning

Medical students at Monash Rural Health (MRH) Churchill now have access to a 3D-printed anatomy kit that is revolutionising medical training around the world. The 80-90 first year students at Churchill have weekly classes in anatomy locally and travel to Monash University’s Clayton campus fortnightly to access the anatomy facilities and human specimens located there.

Director of Centre for Human Anatomy Education at Monash University, Professor Paul McMenamin, presented MRH Churchill with a permanent kit of its own to enhance students’ anatomy studies. The printed body parts, which look almost exactly the same as the real thing, can be used to replace difficult to get and expensive cadavers that are crucial for training doctors.

Professor McMenamin and his team developed a collection of full coloured, 3D printed anatomical models created from CT and laser scans of real specimens. The 3D printing captures realistic detail of a dissected specimen in ways that traditional moulding and casting techniques cannot.

“We printed out the first replicas two and a half years ago and finished the entire series only nine months ago,” he said. “Since then, we are getting interest from all over the world as it is now a commercially available anatomical teaching tool. We are the leaders in this field.”

The 57 components are replicas of the entire human body. Printing a hand can take three to four hours however the larger components can take as long as a week. The printed body parts are falsely coloured to help students distinguish between the different parts of the anatomy including the ligaments, muscles and blood vessels.

According to Professor McMenamin, not everyone has access to real cadaver specimens for a range of reasons including cost and the strict guidelines around handling, storing and using them. There are also religious and cultural barriers for some students and countries in dissecting cadavers for education. The kits, valued at more than $250,000, can be used in many different environments including the classroom or hospitals.

“Students still have exposure to traditional methods of anatomy however this kit will definitely enhance their training,” Professor McMenamin said.

Director of MRH Churchill, Associate Professor Shane Bullock said the kit would have tremendous benefits for students. “Owning a set of detailed models of the entire human body will complement the range of teaching resources we have in Churchill and will definitely enhance student learning in anatomy,” he said.

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