China and the west have been constantly showing us how 3D printing makes life-threatening and complex procedures much safer. However, this is happening elsewhere too. A team of surgeons in Blumenau, South of Brazil, has used 3D printed medical models to increase the probability of success of a surgery on a six-year-old girl suffering from orbital hypertelorism.
It was a complex and high-risk operation because the doctors were forced to work in an area close to lots of vital organs and blood vessels. The team therefore decided to develop a 3D printed model of the girl’s skull in order to prepare for the surgery. The replica was also at hand during procedure and definitely contributed to the six-hour surgery’s success. One of the doctors explains. ‘After spending some hours studying the 3D printed skull, we practiced the crucial bone incisions on it and also used it as reference during the actual surgical procedure. Having a model to manipulate, as an addition to the imaging exams, was very important for the success of the final result.’
The surgeons were very satisfied with the 3D printing model and have already ordered the next one for a forthcoming spine reconstruction surgery, which will give the patient a few extra centimeters in height.
“MRI images and CT scans were used to make this medical model, which took 57 hours to 3D print. Finishing work to ensure complete accuracy took another 16 hours, and all the work was outsourced to the Brazilian-based 3D printing service bk3D. According to the company’s managing partner, this is just one of the ways in which 3D printing can be used to improve medical practices. ‘There are numerous possibilities for 3D printing to aid healthcare, from surgical procedure planning to the replacement of entire bioprinted organs. We still have a long way to go, but it is already possible to enjoy the benefits that engineering offers,’ he said.”
As 3D printing is already being used to save lives, we can only hope it will become common in every hospital around the globe.