Increasing Access to Medical Training with 3D Printing: The endotracheal intubation model
ETI is a major component of advanced airway management that involves the insertion of a tube into the trachea to maintain a patient’s airway or to administer drugs. It is a crucial life-saving procedure, which like all technical skills, is subject to a learning curve. It is essential for medical trainees to practice these skills, since unsuccessful ETI or greater than two failed attempts may lead to further health complications and even death. Currently, the models used by medical trainees to practice ETI are expensive and therefore difficult to access, particularly in developing areas. In keeping with the commercialization and increasing availability of 3D printers, the “ETI Model” seeks to improve accessibility to this training tool at a negligible price.
The model in the attached figure was printed by the Makerbot Replicator 2x with dual extrusion, through dissolvable and ABS filaments. The soft tissues were printed in a flexible material, called Ninjaflex, for greater accuracy of texture. These are basic filaments that are commercially sold and available in many 3D printing facilities.
To simulate particularly challenging airways, various premade tongue prints will also be available. These prints correspond to the classification of airway challenge levels that are determined by the Mallampati score and the Cormack Lehane Classification system. The former assesses the distance from the tongue base to the roof of the mouth, and the latter classifies airway cases depending on the structures that are visible by direct laryngoscopy. Higher grades of both classification systems describe more difficult airways in which to perform endotracheal intubation.
By improving training accessibility, the Endotracheal Intubation Model is the realized potential of 3D printing impacts on medical education. It stands as a precedent for future models that will similarly aim to improve clinical practice by addressing the needs of our future healthcare providers.