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Orthopedic Nurses See Trends in Medical 3D Printing

From the realm of science fiction with Star Trek’s replicators to the cutting edge of medical research, 3D bio-printing has come a long way and is opening up new horizons for medical research, with products now approved, available, and applied in clinical settings. 

3D Bio-Printing: What Does the Healthcare Industry Have Available Now?

So far, the majority of over one hundred 3D-printed medical products that have been reviewed by the FDA are medical devices, including orthopedic implants. The FDA-approved products now list joint and limb replacements, bone plates, and surgical instruments and guides. 

The first FDA-approved 3D-printed orthopedic implant was a titanium spinal fusion device designed to promote bone growth and help patients with degenerative disc disease or other spinal conditions. 

While 3D printing technology is still relatively new in the field of orthopedics, two areas of 3D-printed orthopedic products have become more commonly used than others. 

  1. Patient-specific implants and prosthetics, especially knee or hip replacements and spinal implants, are customized to fit each patient’s unique anatomy, which can improve their outcome and reduce the risk of complications, and can be produced more quickly and affordably than traditional prosthetics.
  2. Surgical instruments, as well as guides for bone cutting and plate positioning, can help surgeons perform procedures with greater accuracy and precision. 

What Is the Advantage for Patients?

With custom-made 3D implants, operative and recovery times are shorter, the function is improved, subsequent complications can be prevented, the adequate anatomical fit avoids disturbing the load distribution and bone biomechanics, pain is reduced, and osseointegration is enhanced. 

Custom-made 3D-printed implants, tailored to the patient’s specific anatomy, have several significant advantages for both the healthcare team and the patient. 

The Impact on Orthopedic Nurses

In addition to these advantages, the use of 3D printing technology in orthopedics has the potential to:

  • Increase efficiency, reducing wait times for patients and improving the workflow for orthopedic nursing staff.
  • Reduce costs, making these treatments more accessible to patients, and thus benefitting orthopedic nurses by reducing the burden of caring for patients with more advanced and complex orthopedic conditions.
  • Allow for more complex procedures. Orthopedic nursing staff may need to adapt to these changes by gaining new skills and knowledge to effectively assist in the procedures and care for patients who receive 3D-printed orthopedic implants and prosthetics.
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Time is scarce for all nurses, and the time saved by using this kind of technology is priceless for all involved. The American Hospital Association (AHA) confirms that lengthy surgeries are reduced between 1.5 to 2.5 hours when 3D-generated anatomical models are used as guides. 

How Can You Learn More About 3D Orthopedic Technology?

Orthopedic nurses can start by attending an orthopedic conference packed with learning opportunities about cutting-edge technologies and networking with colleagues who might be able to tell you about their experience as well as outstanding courses on the latest technologies. 

  • Oxford Abstracts provides a list of conferences in locations as interesting as Cairo, Liverpool, or Washington, D.C., to find out what’s happening worldwide in this field. 
  • At this Mobius Md site, you can find more orthopedic conferences scheduled for 2023 in places a little closer to home, for instance, in Miami, Denver, or Colorado Springs. 
  • For an innovative exchange on technology updates, surgical advances, and clinical insights, you can attend a conference in January 2024 in Hawaii
  • For the annual congress of the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, you can plan on going to Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2024. 

Nursing Conferences Are a Great Way to Expand Your Knowledge

Read the Nursa article on how to take full advantage of nursing conferences to build your professional future. Be sure to participate in some webinars or courses before you go so you also have something to share. Searching the internet, you can find many, for example:

You can find several resources available for orthopedic nurses who wish to gain additional training and education on working with 3D-printed orthopedic implants. You should consult with your employer or professional organizations to identify the most appropriate training resources for your needs. 

Are You Interested in Becoming an Orthopedic Nurse?

You might find working at the forefront of all this innovation exciting and attractive for your professional future as a registered nurse (RN) or a nurse practitioner (NP). To obtain the Orthopedic Nurse Certified credential, you need to have a current RN license, two years of RN experience, and a minimum of 1,000 hours of work experience in orthopedic nursing, and then pass a test. 

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Becoming an orthopedic (NP) requires completing a master’s degree as well as the corresponding certification. Currently, there are no dedicated programs available for those aspiring to become orthopedic RNs or NPs. Rather, you choose an available and accredited nursing program and then complement the program with specialized courses or post-graduate programs to broaden your knowledge of orthopedics.

The orthopedic nurse’s salary is about the same as a registered nurse (RN) salary, at an average of $77,600 yearly. Orthopedic nurse practitioners (NPs) also earn at the same level as other NPs, $124,680 on average. Of course, this varies by state, years of experience, and other factors.

Revolutionizing Pharmaceuticals: Personalized Treatment

Another promising area of 3D printing for orthopedic NPs is pharmaceuticals. 3D printing can transform healthcare through personalized medication in the form of tablets or capsules with modified, sustained, or controlled drug release. Also, orodispersible film (ODF), sheets made of appropriate materials with drugs incorporated into them, liberate the medicine rapidly in the mouth without any water consumption or chewing. Yet another form is that of highly porous aerogel microspheres for pulmonary drug delivery.

Specialization Taken to a New Level

Personalized medication tailors the dose and combination of drugs to the patient and can be produced through on-demand manufacturing.   

Spritam, an anti-seizure drug, was the first 3D printed drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was made available on the market in March of 2016 by Ohio-based Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, using 3D ZipDose technology. 

Medications developed using this technology are specially designed to aid patients with swallowing difficulties and those who tend to miss their prescribed doses, leading to ineffective outcomes. Inadequate adherence to the drug routine, in this case among epileptics, may lead to serious complications, including frequent seizures. A survey conducted on epilepsy patients found that 71% often neglect taking a dose or don’t take it on time, and half of them reported having a seizure after a missed dose. 

Spritam, a porous, tasty pill formulated with 3D printing technology, is considered a breakthrough in precision medicine and the treatment of epilepsy. The technology enables the disintegration of the drug in an average time of 11 seconds with a sip of water, making it easy for the patients to take the drug, even in high doses of up to 1000 mg., facilitating adherence to the treatment.

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Patient engagement and adherence to treatment are one of the major advantages of 3D bio-printed medications due to the combination of drugs in one pill and the ease of taking the medication for those with problems swallowing.

The Brilliant Future of 3D Bio-Printing

In 2019, bioengineers from the University of Washington School of Medicine and College of Engineering rocked the world with their groundbreaking 3D technique for bio-printing tissues. Their achievement, along with advancements at the University of California Berkeley and other renowned institutions, holds incredible potential for producing custom-made living body tissue, blood vessels, bones, and even organs.

Although 3D printing provides extraordinary opportunities for medical innovation, technology is not the only issue. Institutions are still looking for solutions regarding reimbursement and safety challenges related to integrating the rapidly evolving technology into a highly regulated field. Some of the issues that still need to be cleared up are:

  1. Reimbursement models be for 3D printing services and products.
  2. The benefits of establishing 3D printing facilities vs. startup costs.
  3.  Design and production of 3D bio-printed organs or tissues for children that grow symmetrically with the child’s body.
  4. Potential risks for patient safety of products that fall outside of FDA oversight.
  5. Limitations on state-of-the-art 3D printing of medical implants due to the narrow range of printable materials that are also bio-compatible. 
  6. Standardization of the regulatory procedure for this fast-paced innovation. Rules and guidelines for process approval play a crucial role in producing 3D-printed medical implants, devices, and pharmaceuticals. 

Once these challenges are addressed, there will be no looking back, and the healthcare industry can seriously embrace 3D bio-printable technology and then contemplate a smart future with personalized medicine that can revolutionize the healthcare system. It’s already happening. Bones, multi-layer skin, blood vessels, retinal tissue, and even hearts and livers have been 3D printed. Although none of these printed bio-products are yet approved for human implantation, they are already used for research, planning, and teaching. The race is on!

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