A NORTH-EAST hospital has set up its own in-house 3D printing lab to help with complex spinal surgeries.

The lab at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle is being used to assist orthopaedic and spinal surgeons to plan complex operations and reduce the amount of time patients spend in surgery.

So far 20 patients, with conditions such as spina bifida, scoliosis, and kyphotic deformities, have taken part in a trial using the technology, which could be rolled out to other areas, such as trauma.

A spokeswoman for Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the scope of using 3D printing to assist doctors was "vast".

The technology provides doctors with a patient-specific 3D model, which can be used to help them plan treatment, particularly in complex cases, and reduce the amount of time they spend in surgery, which reduces the risk of complications.

The trial is being led by Andrew Bowey, a spinal surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals.

He said: "3D printing has become an essential part of pre-operative planning in complex spinal cases."

Mr Bowey said in one case, using 3D printing had saved more than two hours during a complex surgical procedure on a patient suffering from spina bifida and a severe kyphotic deformity, contributing to a better experience.

The lab is being provided by axial3D, a Belfast-based company which specialises in medical 3D printing.

Daniel Crawford,its chief executive, said, “The orthopaedic and spinal team at Newcastle Hospitals have an international reputation for their ground-breaking work on complex conditions.

"We are excited to be working closely with the team to assist in making medical 3D printing routine practice within the trust, to ultimately help improve the quality of patient care across the region.

“3D printing is revolutionising how we deliver patient care. axial3D has created a cost-effective and easy method for hospitals such as Newcastle to provide this technology to their patients, without impacting day to day workloads."

The trial at the RVI will include 48 patients and the trust will then consider rolling it out in other areas, when it could also be used in other hospitals in the city.