May 19, 2014

Researchers at Kyoto University has used 3D printer to help surgeons in a living donor lung transplant surgery. The medical institute announced May 14 that they have successfully transplanted part of a man's right lung into his wife's left lung. This is the first time such living donor transplant was completed.

A Kansai woman in her 40s was diagnosed with irreversible pulmonary fibrosis or firming of the lung tissue. The disease caused her left lung fail to function properly and her condition required an emergency surgery. In cases like this, patients need a lung transplant from a donor, but none was available. And in addition, only people who have the same blood type as the recipients are allowed to become living donors. Thankfully, her husband's blood and tissue type were compatible and a transplant operation was scheduled.

It was an unusual case because in general a lung is implanted to the same side it is originally taken from. In this case, the husband's left lung was too small compared to the patient's left lung. So the solution was to take a portion of the husband's right lung, which was larger than his left lung, and implanted it in place of his wife's left lung.

In an unprecedented operation, the surgeons took the husband's lower right lung, rotated it and transplanted it to the woman's left lung.

To facilitate the operation, Kyoto University borrowed a 3D printer from Nagoya City University and printed out full-scale models of the woman's chest and the left lung. Because locations of bronchi and blood vessels differ between the left and right lungs, the surgeons rehearsed the transplant operation to get an initial idea on how to proceed the transplant before commencing surgery.

Hiroshi Date, right, a pulmonologist at Kyoto University Hospital, explains how surgeons used 3D printed models of the chest region and a lung created with a 3-D printer to rehearse the process. (Akiyoshi Abe)

The surgery went smoothly. As of May 10, she was discharged from the medical center after having been able to easily walk 10,000 steps in a day.

Of 368 pulmonary transplant cases reported in Japan, living donor transplants account for 40 percent. "The existence of the option of implanting the right lung in the left lung will enable more patients to undergo transplantation," said Hiroshi Date, a pulmonologist and professor at the hospital.

However further research will be needed to enable other surgeons to perform similar operations.

"More experience and sharing of information will be necessary to generalize the finding," said Meinoshin Okumura, president of the Japanese Association for Chest Surgery.

3D printing has been used again to help saving people's life, and it won't be the last. It is reported that the woman and her husband have now returned to their normal life.


via The Asahi Shimbun


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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