Surgeons at Southampton University Hospital are using 3D printing technology to create extremely precise tumor models derived from CT and MRI scans. This program seeks to improve the accuracy of complex cancer operations, with a primary focus on patients with hilar cholangiocarcinoma, a difficult and complicated kind of bile duct cancer. This is consistent with current medical trends, as more healthcare practitioners realize the revolutionary potential of 3D printing in enhancing patient well-being.

For medical practitioners, hepatic cholangiocarcinoma—a cancer that originates in the bile ducts that connect the liver to the gallbladder—poses special challenges. Despite the availability of CT and MRI scanning to assist in assessing the tumor's severity, surgeons may choose to use far more invasive methods due to unclear preoperative visualization.


3D printed liver models used to support tumor removal preparation and planning.

In fact, because this malignancy is so complex, doctors often face unexpected difficulties during surgery that they were ill-prepared for in advance. Because of this, surgeons find it challenging to assess if a full tumor removal is feasible until the procedure is well advanced. This may cause the surgeon to make decisions that cannot be changed, which could have a negative long-term effect on the patient.

Enhancing Cancer Therapy Through 3D Printing

Under the direction of Mr. Arjun Takhar, a specialist hepatobiliary and pancreatic cancer surgeon, this research aims to create intricate 3D models using patient-specific data to directly enhance results. The objective? to make it possible for surgeons to evaluate the tumor's complex relationships. With the help of the PLANETS Cancer Charity, his team creates realistic, patient-specific models from CT and MRI scan data via 3D printing technology.

Before entering the operating room, surgeons can better plan and make decisions thanks to these 3D printed models, which provide a concrete, scaled picture of the patient's tumor. Through improved visualization of the surrounding anatomy of a patient, including bile ducts, blood vessels, and other tissues, surgeons can now proactively lower the chance of invasive surgical errors. Mr. Takhar said, "I'm optimistic about the wider impact of using 3D printing in the fight against this cancer."