IU Health’s 3D printing technology improving patient care

Brian Overshiner is able to print almost anything a healthcare system needs.

INDIANAPOLIS – 3D-printing technology has been used to create toys, decorations, even musical instruments, but IU Health has found a way to use the technology to improve patient care.

“We can basically personalize medicine,” said Brian Overshiner, 3D Innovation Lab manager at IU Health.

Inside University Hospital, Overshiner keeps a close eye on his 3D printer at work. But before developing an interest in printing, Overshiner worked as a radiation therapist for more than a decade.

“I treated cancer patients for a decade and a half, and 3D printing was my personal hobby,” Overshiner said.

He started printing pieces and parts for work. But years later, “it’s now snowballed into a full-blown 3D lab.”

These days, it is able to print almost anything a healthcare system needs.

“So we can print the patient’s anatomy and surgeons can then pre-plan their surgical cases that are complex and fix problems before they go into the operating room,” Overshiner said. “Everything from a mobility aid for rehab patients to a prototype for a school of drug researchers.”

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Since 2017, they have grown and expanded into the lab they now have, with multiple printers and materials constantly in operation.

“We can customize treatment devices specifically for patients,” Overshiner said.

Using his 3D printing skills, he is able to create models that can print and demonstrate heart defects on their own, helping to better educate their healthcare workers.

“We can learn to read and look at pictures or videos, but we can learn to put it all together for you,” said Heather Humphrey, a nursing professional development practitioner at Riley Hospital for Children.

Children’s hearts are small, usually about the size of their fists and sometimes no bigger than a strawberry, Humphrey said. So these large, 3D-printed models that can show parents closely what kind of heart disease or health problem their child is dealing with have become a critical way for doctors to explain health problems and how they’re caring for patients.

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“Light bulbs go very quickly,” Humphrey said.

Pediatric Cardiologist at Riley Dr. “Looking there, you can imagine where the hole is and what it takes to close it,” Jyoti Patel said.

Patel said pivoting from pen and paper to 3D models has allowed him to show parents what kind of problem their child is facing and that makes a big difference.

“You can see that, ‘Oh wow, there’s actually a hole in the bottom two chambers of the heart,’ which is sometimes an interesting and somewhat difficult concept to understand that there really is a hole there,” Patel said.

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And over the years, these 3D models have become an important part of the care IU Health offers.

“They brought a piece that I wouldn’t want to go on without,” Humphrey said.

In the five years since the lab opened, Overshiner said it has become a leading location in the Midwest, improving patient care.

“They’ve seen the benefits firsthand. We’ve had patients say, ‘I understand what’s going on with me for the first time in five years because they have a visual representation that’s easy to understand,'” Overshiner said.

As technology continues to evolve and improve what it can print, Overshiner said these 3D models have the potential to make a big impact on patient healthcare in the years to come.

“There’s a lot more potential. We’re just scratching the surface,” Overshiner said.

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