In VA health care, continuous innovation is crucial for better Veteran care. The Office of Advanced Manufacturing (OAM) is at the forefront of innovation at VHA thanks to its game-changing 3D-printing capabilities. Dr. Jessie M. Jean-Claude, Chief Vascular Surgeon for VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System (VANOHS) in Cleveland, and Mr. Bill Corcuera, Site Lead for OAM VANOHCS lab, lead groundbreaking advancements in 3D-printed pre-procedural medical models.

3D-printed anatomical medical models help provide a tangible guide for decision-making during surgery. Mr. Corcuera explained, "Our product is essentially an anatomically correct 3D-printed model that is patient-specific. The goal is to assist VA surgeons and other medical providers in planning their surgical procedures or interventions."

Within the intricacies of surgical planning, where every incision must be deliberate and every movement strategic, the ability to visualize patient-specific anatomy with unparalleled accuracy is invaluable. 3D-printed pre-procedural medical models, derived from CT and MRI scans, provide surgeons with a comprehensive understanding of the Veteran's anatomy before the first scalpel is wielded. By using the pre-procedural model to meticulously plan each step of the procedure, surgeons can anticipate challenges, optimize approaches, and minimize risks. Moreover, these pre-procedural models foster interdisciplinary collaboration, enabling seamless communication among VA health care professionals and leading to superior surgical outcomes.

Dr. Jean-Claude recalled the transformative experience of utilizing a 3D-printed pre-procedural model for the first time, highlighting its role in guiding a surgical procedure for a Veteran patient with an aneurysm. Choosing the best approach for the necessary procedure–open technique or endovascular graft–was challenging because she had to rely solely on the Veteran's CT scan.

Dr. Jean-Claude reached out to Mr. Corcuera to 3D print the pre-procedural medical model. The 3D-printed pre-procedural model provided the answers needed to move forward in the surgical plan. She explained, "When he walked into my office with the 3D model, it was a game-changer. The model provided a clear answer, allowing us to proceed with the less invasive endovascular graft, benefiting the Veteran patient with a quicker recovery and fewer complications."

The core of VA health care is the Veteran experience, and in this aspect, 3D-printed pre-procedural medical models play a significant role. These models offer more than just tangible benefits like reducing risks during surgery and saving time in the operating room. They also give Veteran patients a strong sense of confidence as they prepare for their procedures. Seeing a visual representation of their planned treatment helps Veterans feel more assured when giving consent for surgery. Dr. Jean-Claude described, "Having a visual aid, such as putting a 3D model into a Veteran's hand, simplifies what can be a complex and anxiety-inducing situation."

It also helps their caregivers and family members better understand what to expect during the treatment process. Informed consent isn't just about signing paperwork; it's about building a shared understanding that fosters trust and collaboration between Veterans and VA providers. Equipped with these 3D models, surgeons enter the operating room feeling more confident with a clearer surgical plan.

The impact of 3D-printed pre-procedural medical models also extends far beyond the confines of the operating room; it extends into the realm of medical education and training. VANOHS is creating not only Veteran patient-specific models but also educational ones that can be used indefinitely for training purposes. These pre-procedural models create a risk-free environment for learning by providing students and other clinicians with lifelike replicas for practice and skill development. Through repeated simulation and hands-on experience, future health care professionals refine their skills, ensuring competence and confidence as they transition into clinical practice.

Looking ahead, OAM aims to further streamline the process and expand access to 3D-printed pre-procedural medical models across VA medical centers (VAMCs) with surgical programs. The goal is to continue refining the technology, making it more accessible, and ensuring its integration as a standard practice in surgical planning across the VA health care system.

For VA providers interested in requesting a pre-procedural medical model, please contact