Enhancing the care of pilon fractures with 3D printed models
Three dimensional printing is an additive manufacturing process by which a 3D structure is created from a digital blueprint. It is a technology that is increasingly utilized by surgeons as a resource for preoperative planning and intraoperative guidance. In the field of orthopedic surgery, 3D printed models have not been thoroughly evaluated as an educational resource. The current study aims, first, to evaluate 3D models of pilon fractures for their fidelity compared to the corresponding CT blueprints and, second, to evaluate 3D printed models as teaching tools. Pilon fractures of the distal tibial articular surface are complex in nature and a good representation of high-‐energy injury. They pose challenges to both learning with traditional two-‐dimensional or virtual three-‐dimensional resources and to adequate understanding of fracture anatomy. It is hypothesized that 3D printed models will be accurate compared to corresponding clinical CT datasets. This study showed through distances between landmarks and by surface characteristic analysis that micro-‐ CTs of 3D printed models are accurate compared to the corresponding clinical CTs, but that variation is introduced when converting clinical CTs to 3D printed models to micro-‐CTs.