News / Ottawa

Ottawa Hospital's 3D printer revolutionizing medicine

The Ottawa Hospital is using a special 3D printer to churn out replacement body parts and research prototypes.

Dr. Adnan Sheikh, medical director for 3D printing at the Ottawa Hospital, holds up a plastic pelvic bone that was created with a 3D printer.

lucy scholey/metro

Dr. Adnan Sheikh, medical director for 3D printing at the Ottawa Hospital, holds up a plastic pelvic bone that was created with a 3D printer.

The plastic body parts look like they belong in a university classroom – a heart, a pelvic bone, a prosthetic arm.

But the Ottawa Hospital is using a special 3D printer to churn out replacement body parts and research prototypes. 

It’s revolutionizing medicine, said Dr. Adnan Sheikh, the medical officer for 3D printing at the Ottawa Hospital.

“Just by looking at this, the surgeon can plan what kind of surgery needs to be done,” he said, while holding up a plastic pelvic bone.

Using an MRI or CT scan, the 3D printer spits out a replica body part. Doctors can use these prototypes to plan and practice complicated heart, brain and reconstructive surgeries. This can cut down on surgery time and help doctors be more precise.

The tool can also create customized prostheses, low-cost medical devices, and surgical tools. It can even create new skin for burn patients.

And the Ottawa Hospital is looking at expanding its operations at the future Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards. Sheikh said several new firms will create these prototypes and sell them across the country and beyond.

“There is a vast and unmet demand for these 3D-printed models around the world, creating immense opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs in Canada with the support of the innovation centre,” he said.

While most of the 3D printing will take place at the Ottawa Hospital, the innovation centre’s maker space will provide a “commercialization hub” to market and sell the plastic parts.

Dr. Frank Rybicki, chief of medical imaging at the Ottawa Hospital, is to thank for the 3D imaging technology. The Harvard graduate has lectured and trained others in 3D imaging, including Sheikh.

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