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CHEO using 3D printing technology to enhance patient care

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CHEO has adopted 3D printing technology to get critical medical equipment in need of repair back into service.

The printers allow repairs to be made in a matter or hours, rather than days, the hospital says.

"With supply chain shortages, delays or difficulty obtaining unique replacement parts for critical equipment, in-house 3D printing allows us to design and print these parts within the hospital," a news release from CHEO said.

"This allows us to get these parts made more efficiently, quickly and at less cost."

The printers can also make new equipment; for example, by printing a life-like recreation of teeth to facilitate explaining a complicated dental procedure.

"For kids who are younger, being able to actually physically touch the different pieces because they're really concrete thinkers, having those pieces ... to touch and see and feel is really helpful," said child care specialist Maryse Deslauriers.

CHEO will be utilizing the three 3D printers for the next five years, after a successful pilot program was conducted with technology company PolyUnity.

"It's putting equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars back into use so that we can use it for patient care," said Oem Dave, a biomedical engineering technologist.

The hospital is the first health-care organization in Ontario to adopt PolyUnity's technology, CHEO said.

"We can often turn around things in a matter of days, which has been incredible. We're trying to shortcut a bunch of the supply chain issues that we've seen over the last four years," said Tom Burn, PolyUnity's production and design manager.

The technology also allows broken headsets that keep children focused during MRIs to be fixed, rather than replaced entirely or make a critical clip to return broken stretchers back into service.

"For kids who are having to go for radiation, we're able to show them what the mask looks like before they actually have to go there. So it really helps to normalize and help decrease anxiety around medical procedures," Deslauriers added.

Researchers say they continue to find other ways to implement the technology.

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