The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun using 3D printed versions of patients’ actual organs to provide care to veterans. Dr. Beth Ripley is leading the effort for the VA; she is the National Director of the VA 3D Printing Network and a finalist for a Service to America Medal in the Science and Environment category.
Dr. Ripley talked about the process of 3D printing organs, explaining that CT scans and MRIs are fed into a 3D printer. The printed organs use “thousands of different types of materials” to create a detailed and accurate replica of the actual organs, according to Dr. Ripley. This new method allows healthcare providers to practice before performing surgeries, which can save 1-2 hours of surgery; avoid poor outcomes for patients; and train new physicians and nurses.
Dr. Ripley also mentioned the VA’s use of 3D printing to produce face shields, surgical masks, nasal swabs and other supplies to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. She also said the VA is working on being able to print living bone that can be used to treat injuries “in the next year or two.”