Jonathan M. Morris, M.D., Radiology, Mayo Clinic: There's really no hospital system that has built as much infrastructure around 3D printing as Mayo has. We've done a lot of studies in the field of head and neck cancer and 3D printing and how they're complementary. Some of those complementary studies just show better understanding of the patient's specific anatomy before entering the operating room. With patient-specific virtual surgical planning and cutting guides, you can save up to 2 hours in the operating room, which means less time for a patient under anesthesia. And we get a better outcome because of all the design ahead of time.

We've developed a specialty called point-of-care manufacturing. All the manufacturing as the physicians inside the hospital, so there's no translation needed. We go from CT scan to three-dimensional model of complex cancer in every area of the body, but particularly in head and neck, quite seamlessly. We're combining surgery, biomedical engineering and radiology all in one place to create not just the 3D printed models, but also the virtual surgical planning.

We take the imaging with the patient's anatomy and tumor and vascularity, and then we print those out in a life-size three-dimensional way and give them to the surgeon as kind of a roadmap.

Daniel L. Price, M.D., Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic: We're all used to looking at two-dimensional images of patients and CT scans and MRIs. And 3D modeling takes that 2D image and turns it into something that you can hold in your hands and really understand what's the patient's anatomy. Having guides that are custom fit to their jaw, to their bone that we're taking from another part of their body to reconstruct them so that we can get perfect bone-to-bone contact and make them look as much like they did prior to ever having a cancer diagnosis.

But you really have to get it perfect the first time. We have the opportunity to practice, plan and make it perfect on a computer before we ever get to the operating room. We found that patients had less complications long term when we use 3D modeling. They were less likely to have a plate break, and they were less likely to have that bone fracture or nonunion when we use 3D modeling.

Dr. Morris: Another advantage is patient consent. When you let the patient hold their own skull or their own mandible or their own tumor in their hands, then you can start using the model as a communication vehicle. Mayo Clinic is an integrated multidisciplinary team. So instead of just surgeon and neuroradiologists meeting to discuss cases, now we have surgeon, neuroradiologist, biomedical engineers, and 3D printing capabilities all in the same care team.

Dr. Price: We excel at complex patient care. And I think that's where our efficiency and the expertise of all of our colleagues to take care of those complex patients really comes into play.