Jun 8, 2015 | By Simon

As if the use of 3D printing in the health and medical industry hasn’t already proved itself to be among one of the revolutionary technologies in the history of mankind, it seems as though we are introduced to an entirely new use for the technology on a seemingly weekly basis.  

Previously, we’ve seen how 3D printing has helped doctors create exact replicas of a body feature within a patient that was due for surgery as a way for the doctors to practice the surgery multiple times leading up to the actual surgery - something that both decreases risk as well as the total operation time, as well as how 3D printing has been used to create customized prosthetics and bone plates such as those that are made for head trauma victims.  Now, doctors in China are using 3D printing technologies to help assist in the separation surgery between a pair of newborn conjoined twins.  

The Children's Hospital of Fudan University, which is located in Shanghai, will be performing the surgery on a pair of conjoined twins that were born on March 17th in the JiangXi province.  While careful consideration was taken to ensure that the newborns were okay, they were relocated to the Children’s Hospital just three days after their birth to ensure that their vitals were holding up and that any precautionary measures could be taken and monitored.

On Tuesday (Jun 9), doctors will be performing a separation surgery on the twins with the aid of 3D printing to increase the operation accuracy.  As of June 6 - 81 days after the twins’ birth - the combined body weight of the two babies had increased to 9.55 kg.  

According to the hospital, this will be the seventh conjoined twin body separation operation since 2009 and that the vast majority of conjoined twins are connected at the chest and abdomen.  In the case of the current conjoined twins, their case is among one of the rarest in the world with less than 18% of conjoined twin cases having been reported.  While the twins have many of their own independent bodily systems, they do share a portion of a digestive tract which will need to be manually rebuilt by the team of surgeons.  

To ensure that they are able to conduct the surgery with as much accuracy as possible, the surgeons have been practicing with a 1:1 scale replica of the twins that features many of the features that will be removed or operated on during the surgery.  Among others, these include bone joints and skin connections that the surgeons have been able to virtually cut and fold repeatedly in order to determine how to best separate the two bodies.

Of course, a procedure like this doesn’t come without its high costs.  It was reported that AngelMom Charity Foundation came forward with 200,000 yuan ($32,200) to help fund the surgery for the two children.  Whether they know it or not, the fund not only helped improve the lives of the two children but also helped to further advance the use of additive manufacturing within the medical industry.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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