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3D Bioprinting: A New Reconstruction Option after Lumpectomy?

bioprinterOne of the most exciting things about specializing in a field like reconstructive breast surgery is that there are so many innovative developments continually evolving. One of these is called 3D bioprinting, and it’s a technology that just may offer new reconstruction options for women who have had a lumpectomy.

What Is 3D Printing?

As the name implies, 3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object based on a digital rendering. The digital image shows a simulated three-dimensional picture, which is then translated into reality by laying down many thin horizontal layers until the object is created. 3D printing has been used successfully in a number of applications, both medical and non-medical. One example of how 3D printing could be beneficial from a practical standpoint is by using the technology during archaeology studies to reconstruct fossils or duplicate artifacts.

3D bioprinting uses the same concepts, but in biological applications. In context of breast reconstruction, a digital image would be rendered of the existing tumor within the breast. Then, a three-dimensional model could be created using the patient’s fat cells to match those contours. The theory is that using a precise three-dimensional model would eliminate concerns over irregularity in breast shape, because the fat cells would exactly match the mass that was removed during surgery.

The Future of Oncoplastic Surgery

While the possibilities implied by 3D bioprinting are truly incredible, we’re still years away from these ideas becoming a reality. In the meantime, more surgeons are turning toward  oncoplastic breast surgery as an alternative to more invasive mastectomy procedures in order to ensure a preservation of as much natural breast tissue as possible, along with more natural-looking reconstruction results following a lumpectomy.