Regenerative Medicine Utrecht


Platform Innovation: the world of 3D technology

Note: this post has been translated from (click here for the original post in Dutch)

In order to create applications and technological solutions that really benefit doctors and patients, it is important that they are developed with great involvement of the doctor and patient, preferably in the hospital. That was the common thread of the Innovation Platform on November 18 in Utrecht. More than sixty participants were taken into the world of 3D technology with inspiring practical examples.

During the platform, which was held in the former dissecting room of the Anatomy Building, various speakers explained the developments, the future applications and possibilities of 3D technology. The participants also got an insight into how 3D technology is already finding its way into various specialisms such as rehabilitation medicine, cardiology and anesthesiology. It led to a lot of discussion material in which participants exchanged experiences with each other and the speakers. Below a short description of the presentations.

Patient-oriented innovations

Thomas Maal, Professor of 3D technology in health care and coordinator in the Radboudumc 3D Lab, knows from experience how successful it is to develop the knowledge in the hospital himself: ‘Our lab facilitates and implements technological patient-oriented innovations in 3D imaging and 3D printing in the clinical departments. This way we immediately see whether what we develop in the lab actually works.” In Radboudumc this is already done in various ways: from 3D printing of teeth for a temporary facility to placing implants for oral and oral surgery on the hand from 3D scans. Patient-specific leg prostheses, which are placed perfectly on the bone, are also impressive.

From 2D to 3D

AIO surgery Lars Brouwers from the Elisabeth Tweesteden Hospital in Tilburg, explains the place 3D printing has in trauma surgery. “As soon as the patient comes in, he now receives a two-dimensional CT scan. This is converted to a three-dimensional image and the 3D printer gets started in half an hour. We use the prints to explain procedures to the patient, but in particular to prepare complex operations. “For the printing of prostheses, Brouwers recommends seeking collaboration with UMCs. “They have more specialized printers and moreover you can build up knowledge together. Having commercial companies print it is not expensive in itself, but if you can create the 3D image yourself, you do not have to transfer patient data. ”


The vision of orthopedic surgeon Moyo Kruyt, who works at UMC Utrecht, is in line with this. He gives two examples of complex operations in which a 3D-printed spine prosthesis prevented a spinal cord injury. “We were also confronted with regulations from the European Medical Devices Regulation (MDR), which sets requirements for medical devices such as prostheses. We have created a special file for the first prosthesis – a world first – because it is such a new field. That took six months. More and more is possible with 3D printing technology, but you need a team of medical technicians and people with legal knowledge. Develop your knowledge in-house, and create files as reference material.”


Rehabilitation doctor Ferrie Harberts highlights the MAT Fieldlab, in which medical specialists work together with patients, care providers, researchers and companies. “Sometimes startups invent smart things, but it is difficult to scale up. Or do they miss the input of doctors and patients when developing an innovation? We take care of exchange inside out and outside in in order to arrive at solid market products in the field of rehabilitation. A good example is a virtual reality game in which children with a non-congenital brain injury or visual impairment can practice situations so that they can ultimately participate in traffic independently. ”

To predict

Cardiologist Eduard Holman of the LUMC gives a glimpse into how algorithms work with the help of a ball pit: form. They discover patterns in this. He shows how he has developed an algorithm with a deep learning technique in which artificial intelligence can predict aortic valve insufficiency. “There are also limitations: artificial intelligence can only be applied purposefully to a well-defined problem with clear selection criteria. At the moment these tools are not yet allowed to make independent diagnoses. They can, however, have a supportive effect and lead to less specialized care providers, such as those on the ambulance or the general practitioner, achieving better diagnoses or better referral policies.”

Remote healthcare

Finally, anaesthesiologist-pain specialist Xander Zuidema from the Diakonessenhuis in Utrecht has the floor. “More than 75 percent of people with advanced cancer have pain. In 95 percent of the cases the pain can be treated well, but sometimes the side effects are so intolerable that the patient is still considering euthanasia. This also applies to the people whose pain we cannot treat. We are still very successful with an intrathecal pump. But that’s at the hospital. Together with a home care organization we started looking at how we can organize this in the home situation. With remote supervision and communication via e-health and encrypted connections that works. And with results: patients experience less pain, fewer side effects and need fewer hospital visits.”