An overview on 3D printing for abdominal surgery

  • Andrea Pietrabissa
  • Stefania MarconiEmail author
  • Erika Negrello
  • Valeria Mauri
  • Andrea Peri
  • Luigi Pugliese
  • Enrico Maria Marone
  • Ferdinando Auricchio
Review Article



Three-dimensional (3D) printing is a disruptive technology that is quickly spreading to many fields, including healthcare. In this context, it allows the creation of graspable, patient-specific, anatomical models generated from medical images. The ability to hold and show a physical object speeds up and facilitates the understanding of anatomical details, eases patient counseling and contributes to the education and training of students and residents. Several medical specialties are currently exploring the potential of this technology, including general surgery.


In this review, we provide an overview on the available 3D printing technologies, together with a systematic analysis of the medical literature dedicated to its application for abdominal surgery. Our experience with the first clinical laboratory for 3D printing in Italy is also reported.


There was a tenfold increase in the number of publications per year over the last decade. About 70% of these papers focused on kidney and liver models, produced primarily for pre-interventional planning, as well as for educational and training purposes. The most used printing technologies are material jetting and material extrusion. Seventy-three percent of publications reported on fewer than ten clinical cases.


The increasing application of 3D printing in abdominal surgery reflects the dawn of a new technology, although it is still in its infancy. The potential benefit of this technology is clear, however, and it may soon lead to the development of new hospital facilities to improve surgical training, research, and patient care.


Three-dimensional printing Additive manufacturing Rapid prototyping Virtual reconstruction Simulation for surgery 



The authors want to acknowledge Ms. Chiara Rebuffi (Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Scientific Library) for her support in the definition of the search strings on scientific databases. The present work has been supported by the research project “Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC): development of a new communication platform between radiologists, surgeons and pathologists based on virtual and 3D printed reconstructions of the pancreas and the tumor mass” (PE-2013-02358887) funded by the Italian Ministry of Health. The study falls under the framework of the 3D@UniPV project (, one of the strategic research areas of the University of Pavia.

Compliance with ethical standards


Andrea Pietrabissa, Stefania Marconi, Erika Negrello, Valeria Mauri, Andrea Peri, Luigi Pugliese, Enrico Maria Marone e Ferdinando Auricchio have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San MatteoPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Clinical-Surgical, Diagnostic and Pediatric SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Civil Engineering and ArchitectureUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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