Innovative medical 3D printing at Tampa General Hospital and USF Health Morsani College of Medicine provides a clearer map for surgery


“We are able to translate medical imaging data into 3D models and these can be used in clinical decision making, medical simulation and training, and patient education,” said summer deckerPhD, Associate Professor and Director of 3D Clinical Applications for the Department of Radiology at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

This potentially revolutionary technique uses 3D printed facsimiles to better understand treatment and even reduce risk in invasive and complex surgeries. It allows the evaluation of an organ outside the body, which saves time in the operating room and reduces costs. “With this 3D technology, we can reduce an 11-hour surgery to a three-hour surgery,” Decker added. “So it makes the procedures safer and more efficient.”

USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Tampa General are the first in the Tampa Bay region and among the first in the country to use this innovative technology. Although this collaborative 3D printing program began years ago as research, it has evolved into a valuable medical asset today. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health and dean of Morsani College of Medicine, asked the USF Health 3D Lab team to develop a solution to the international shortage of nasal swab supplies needed for COVID-19 testing. In collaboration with USF’s Division of Infectious Diseases and the Global Emerging Diseases Institute at Tampa General, the team designed and developed an alternative 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swab for COVID testing. Validation of the swab’s accuracy took place at several healthcare facilities across the United States, including Tampa General Hospital. To date, USF’s patent-pending design has produced more than 75 million swabs in more than 50 countries.

A swab is one thing; one heart is another. The artificial version gives doctors and patients a better understanding of the problem at hand. So if a patient has a diseased heart, doctors can scan it, print it, and collaborate on a strategy based on the printed model. Just as important, they can put it in the hands of the patient. “It gives our patients and doctors a better understanding of the problem and how best to treat it,” Dr. Krishna Nallamshettychairman of the department of radiology and associate professor of radiology and cardiology at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and chief of staff at Tampa General Hospital.

A 3D printed anatomical model or surgical cutting guide is made using different types of medical imaging such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Then a 3D printer makes a copy of the object through a series of compiled layers. This “additive manufacturing” process deposits extremely thin layers of material in liquid form and fuses them together to create a replica of the digital file. The technique can create complex shapes and sizes with minimal materials, so it’s quick and relatively inexpensive.

“It’s true from bench to bedside in a short period of time, often the same day,” Decker said. “We can scan the patient, create a computer model of the organ, or design a surgical cutting guide, use that to collaborate with all the teams so they know exactly what they need, print it out, and then rub it in for surgery. It’s an innovation that’s helping to change the outcome for the patient.”

“Having an exact replica of a patient’s real heart – including any defects – is an invaluable tool, especially when it can be created in less than a day,” said Jonathan Ford, PhD, Assistant Professor and Biomedical Engineer, Department of Radiology, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Technical Director of 3D Printing, Tampa General Hospital. “A heart will take about 15 hours to reproduce on the printer, so by the time we return in the morning we can hand the printed heart to the surgeon for reference.”

The 3D clinical applications team currently houses seven medical-grade 3D printers. The team has been located at the USF Health South Tampa Center for Advanced Healthcare on the Tampa General campus for eight years. The team plans to move its 3D lab and printers inside the hospital’s main radiology department, providing better access for surgeons and other clinicians in Tampa General.

Decker and USF Health’s 3D Clinical Applications team were also recognized for their work on 3D printed nasal swabs with the first Jack A. Kolosky Health Innovation Award Tampa Innovation Partners in 2021. The Kolosky Prize is named for the retired president of the Moffitt Cancer Center and recognizes innovation in health care.

Additionally, for his pioneering work with the 3D-printed swab, Decker was one of three USF Health faculty members to June 2021 sharing the national spotlight with medical professionals from across the country, including the Chief Medical Advisor to the President of United Statesdr. Antoine Fauci – for being named 2021 Humanistic Care Champions by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

“It’s really about the power of the collaboration between USF and Tampa General, because the work being done here is truly transformational,” said Jean Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. “It makes a huge difference for our doctors and our patients.”

Tampa General Hospital, a 1,041-bed nonprofit academic medical center, is one of America’s largest hospitals and provides world-class care as the region’s only trauma center. level I and comprehensive burn care. Tampa General Hospital is the highest ranked hospital in the market in US News and World Reports 2021-22 Best Hospitals, and one of the top 4 hospitals in Floridawith five specialties ranked among the best programs in United States. Academic Medical Center’s Commitment to Growing and Developing its Team Members Recognized with Two Prestigious 2021 Awards Forbes magazine ranking – America’s Top Employers by Statethird out of Florida’s 100 companies and first among social and health care organizations and 13and nationally in America’s Best Employers for Women. Tampa General is the safety net hospital for the region, caring for everyone regardless of ability to pay, and in fiscal year 2020 provided net community benefit worth more than $182.5 million in the form of health care for underinsured patients, community education and financial support to community health organizations in Tampa Bay. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and the primary teaching hospital for USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. With five medical helicopters, Tampa General Hospital transports critically injured or ill patients from 23 surrounding counties to receive the advanced care they need. Tampa General is home to a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center, and its 32-bed neuroscience intensive care unit is the largest on the west coast of Florida. It also houses the 82-bed Jennifer Leigh Muma Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a nationally accredited rehabilitation center. Tampa General Hospital’s footprint includes 17 Tampa General Medical Group primary care offices, TGH Family Care Center Kennedy, TGH Brandon Healthplex, TGH Virtual Health, and 19 outpatient radiology centers. Tampa Bay residents also receive world-class care from the TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track network of clinics, and they can even receive home visits in certain regions thanks to TGH Urgent Care at Home, powered by Fast Track. As one of the largest hospitals in the nation, Tampa General Hospital is the first in Florida to partner with GE Healthcare and open a clinical command center that uses artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to improve and better coordinate patient care at lower cost. For more information, visit

USF Health’s mission is to imagine and implement the future of healthcare. It is the partnership of USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Public Health, Taneja College of Pharmacy, School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, Curriculum graduate and postdoctoral fellowships in biomedical sciences and USF Health. group of multi-specialist physicians. the University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the nation has moved up the U.S. News & World Report National University Rankings faster than USF. For more information, visit

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SOURCE Tampa General Hospital


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