A Healthier Future: How AI is Transforming 3D Implant Modeling for Patient Care and Reconstructive Surgery

In 3D implant technology, implants can be generated via AI using the knowledge of how a human body is structured and how it functions. AI’s opportunity to bring custom 3D modeling to scale for healthcare providers empowers a more customized approach to patient care.
5 min read
06/02/21
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By Alexander Khmil
MedTech solution consultant at DataArt, expert in 3D Medical Imaging
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A Healthier Future: How AI is Transforming 3D Implant Modeling for Patient Care and Reconstructive Surgery

Over the last decade, we have borne witness to many incredible medical breakthroughs that have helped cure disease and transform lives worldwide. These innovations are necessary as our population grows and evolves. The tools and practices to reinforce public health and disease prevention require healthcare industry CIOs to anticipate and prepare for advancements and platform modernization.

Fortunately, with the continued convergence of brilliant minds and cutting-edge biomedical engineering technology, the industry has evolved to offer life-saving procedures and initiatives that were once beyond the realm of possibility. Three-dimensional model fabrication – better known as 3D implant modeling – is certainly no exception.

3D printing is not a novel concept; however, it now finds itself within a period of intense adoption and exploration across a variety of industries. In 2018, the medical 3D printing market was reportedly valued at $973 million and is expected to reach $3.7 billion by 2026. In 2020, an architect joined forces with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to develop breakthrough software that prints 3D replicas of human anatomy with high resolution, speed, and range of anatomical components that had not previously been achieved. 

Breakthroughs such as these offer a future in which the most delicate features in our bodies, including capillaries, neurons, and valves, can be printed and modeled with remarkable 3D precision. But when looking to the future of healthcare, 3D implant modeling, both for generic and custom implants, stakes its claim as an integral tool in the customization of patient care and reconstructive surgery.

The Current State of 3D Implant Modeling

3D implant modeling has many surgical applications, including craniofacial, complex bone fractures, pelvic reconstruction, dental implants, and more. Traditionally, creating custom implants has been a costly and challenging process, so most implants are out-of-the-box solutions. However, this can lead to complications in complex cases that demand a more precise solution. It is also important to note that implants are subject to geographical restraints; healthcare differs around the globe, and, in certain areas, the availability of generic implants may be limited.

To this effect, custom implants often offer enhanced performance and improved outcomes compared to generic implants, including reduced surgical times, improved adaptation to the region of the implantation, better cosmesis, and the elimination of further surgeries. When looking at modern dental treatments, we recognize patient scenarios in which standard implants do not provide satisfactory results, such as extreme jaw bone resorption. In this case, custom-made subperiosteal dental implants can be utilized to reduce treatment time and offer abutments to prostheses.

New technology can mitigate many of the associated barriers (cost and complexity) to the utilization of custom 3D implant modeling for complex cases and improved patient outcomes.

The Application of AI in 3D Implant Modeling

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind, such as learning and problem-solving. Platforms leveraging the power of AI can benefit from machine learning. A computer program can automatically learn and adapt to new data without human interference, and deep learning, in which a program can automatically learn through the absorption of large amounts of unstructured data. This requires a multitude of complex, interconnected algorithms. In 3D implant technology, implants can be generated via AI using the knowledge of how a human body is structured and how it functions.

AI can be leveraged to automate the 3D modeling workflow, from data collection to cost tracking, planning construction, material selection and recommendations, machine utilization, predicted patient outcomes, and more. This technology can also help analyze and confirm parts’ functionality and printability to avoid printing errors and effectively save time and money. AI’s opportunity to bring custom 3D modeling to scale for healthcare providers empowers a more customized approach to patient care. The algorithms can run simulations that inform suitable custom implant options that a doctor can choose from to ensure a patients’ desired outcome. This process offers a level of transparency and verifiability not previously possible and, when considering reconstructive procedures, provides life-changing benefits to patients.

Custom 3D modeling using AI is incredibly complex, but doctors do not need special technical knowledge to operate this software with user-friendly, intuitive interfaces. Breaking down these barriers to adoption creates a wealth of possibilities. Faster, smarter algorithms, better data, error reduction, the effective automation of manual tasks, and a more cost and time-effective approach to the 3D modeling process are just some of the benefits. Moreover, the scope of this emerging practice is virtually limitless, going beyond bone reconstruction to include surgeries dealing with soft tissue and more.

With great technological innovation often comes reservations. As the influence of AI and ML continues to permeate across industries, it is frequently met with concerns relating to the threat this technology might pose to human roles. With this in mind, it is important to note that applying AI into implant modeling is not positioned to replace doctors, but rather streamline their care process. With AI capabilities effectively automating workflows, doctors are freed from routine operations that would otherwise be incredibly time-consuming and, at times, monotonous. When technology is used in this way, doctors can establish new standards of patient care, as they are free to focus their attention on those aspects of their role which AI cannot streamline.

AI cannot, and will not, replace doctors. However, what it can do is augment a doctor’s knowledge, expertise, and skill for better, more accessible patient outcomes. Fortunately, we now have the technological expertise that allows us to build such solutions and effectively shape the future of medicine.

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