The use of 3D printing in healthcare is a fast-growing trend. Indeed, technology analyst firm, Gartner predicts that 25% of surgeons will plan surgery using 3D printed models by 2021. And radiology sits at the center of this increasing usage. As Nicole Wake, PhD, from NYU Langone Health told, “Being able to see and hold these tangible 3D models brings everything together.”

On July 1st, four new Category III CPT codes will become available for the use of medical 3D printed anatomical models in the USA. Blackford partner axial3D is at the forefront of 3D printing in healthcare and our Marketing Manager, Greg Kingston, spoke to Katie McKinley, axial3D’s Head of New business & Strategic Partnerships, to find out more about the new codes and who they benefit.

Greg: So, what are these new codes?

Katie: Category III CPT codes are used for new and emerging technologies. They are temporary codes, which are used to assess the new technology and allow the collection of data regarding its use. The data collected through the codes is used to support FDA approval processes or to substantiate widespread use of the new technology.

The criteria for Category III codes include:

  • A protocol for a study of procedures being performed
  • Support from specialties who would use the procedure
  • Availability of U.S. peer-reviewed literature
  • Descriptions of current trials outlining the efficacy of the procedure

Even though they are temporary, the Category III codes are still part of the broader CPT code set, which means that all healthcare payers must be able to accept them into their systems in compliance with HIPAA standards. The codes are collected for five years, during which time they are reviewed for potential inclusion as Category I codes.

Greg: Why are the new codes significant for radiologists and healthcare professionals?

Katie: The four new CPT codes will finally allow radiologists and other clinicians to seek reimbursement for 3D printing services, which is a key milestone on the journey towards widespread adoption of 3D printing in healthcare.

As medical 3D printing becomes more integrated within healthcare, radiology is well positioned to become the primary specialty to adopt the technology. Indeed, the subject has been spoken about extensively at most major radiology conferences, including RSNA.

Speaking about the codes to, Dr. Frank Rybicki, chair of radiology at the Ottawa Hospital, said, “Before now, all 3D printing was volunteer work, but now there’s a way to actually get reimbursement from CMS for patients who need 3D printing. The fact that the codes exist, and they cleared is huge. It’s a really big deal in radiology.”

Based on its use in healthcare to date, 3D printing has already shown itself to be a highly collaborative technology, involving radiologists but also a wide variety of clinicians from other specialties. If this level of engagement continues as 3D printing becomes more prevalent in hospitals, it will not only improve the quality of research into the discipline but will also ultimately improve patient care.


Click here for part 2 of this blog series.


axial3D assure
axial3D assure supports medical 3D print labs to measure the clinical impact and value in their medical 3D printing program. Using axial3D assure, your clinical teams can easily communicate with one another, track production automatically, monitor all activity and manage quality control and reporting in the production of 3D printed medical models. Book a demo of axial3D assure here.