What is the future of 3D printers in elective plastic surgery?

I've heard a lot about 3D printers making ears, noses, and apparently in the very near future skin (for cosmetic firms). While almost all of these are in early phases and geared toward burn victims or other people suffering severe disfigurement; when will this start trickling into elective procedures? For example, I have very thick bulbous skin on my nose and it's very difficult to correct...could a 3d printer theoretically print me a less bulbous tip? Seems crazy now, but so did ps 80yrs ago.

Doctor Answers 8

3d printing is different than 3d bioprinting

3d bioprinting is the ability to print living tissues.  There is active ongoing research to bring this into cosmetic surgery.3d printing is now reality.   It can be used to print Te custom anatomical models.  These can be used throughout the treatment course of a patient.  Before surgery, baseline 3D printed photographs and associated printed models can be used to discuss the surgical treatment goals.  Surgical simulations can then be done, before entering the operating room.  Models based on this can nicely illustrate the surgical plan.  Finally, both sets of models (baseline and simulations) can be utilized in the operating room.   In short, 3d printed technology can be of significant use in in surgical planning and patient education.

New York Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

3-D printable implants are here

In contrast to some of the other responses posted, 3-D printable facial implants that are customized to the individual patient's skeleton are now in existence. 

in a nutshell, imaging of the patients face is performed, and then software is utilized to create custom implants that are molded to the bone contour. The implants can be shaped according to individual needs, and then simply printed. These implants can then be sterilized and used in surgery.  The possibilities are endless! 

Dr. Brett Kotlus is a respected colleague and friend of mine who practices in NYC. This is a special interest of his and he is also a RealSelf doctor. Message him directly for more specific information.

I hope this is helpful to you, and I wish you the very best. 

Tanuj Nakra, MD, FACS
Austin Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Can you reprint my nose please?

Very thoughtful and insightful question.  I am involved in research in the 3-D imaging area, and I can say that at this point we are not there yet.   Hopefully it won't be another 80 years!
Dr. Most

Sam Most, MD
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

3-D printing of body parts

An insightful question.  Yes plastic surgery research is currently investigating 3D printing of cartilaginous frameworks for the trachea, ear  and nose.  It won't be long before we are replacing undesirable cartilaginous shapes of the nasal tip with a catalogue choice of tips! However, the limiting step will still be the overlying fabric or skin.  Thicker skin will require more exaggerated frameworks as we have done in ear reconstruction. Hang in there.  It is an exciting and challenging time for plastic surgery!

R. Laurence Berkowitz, MD
San Jose Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

3D Printing

Great question. No, you can print something smaller.  You can print a custom designed implant for someone to use in the nose though. 
Best of luck!

Gerald Minniti, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 89 reviews

3-D printers and cosmetic surgery?

3-D printers are not there yet. It will not give a solution for thick-skinned individuals however. It can be used in the future for building cartilage framework but this is at least a decade away.   

Toby Mayer, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

3D Printing

Thank you for the question and like many advances in medicine the clock moves slowly and it is unlikely that there will be a procedure in your lifetime to correct a bulbous tip. 

Dr. Corbin

Frederic H. Corbin, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Future of 3D Printers

This is a very interesting and salient question with regards to the future of 3D printing.  The short answer is, we hope so, but our technology isn't there yet.  Currently, 3D printers are being used to create lifelike simulations of before and afters for rhinoplasty patients.  One physician currently using this is Oren Tepper, MD in Brooklyn, NY.  Actual skin scaffolding has not been tested, and in theory, even if it is eventually available, its first use would be for reconstruction - and certainly not cosmetic surgery.  I do, however, see 3D printing in the future as a potentially viable option.

John Layke, DO, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.