Sep 21, 2015 | By Kira

When it comes to complicated surgeries, anything that has to do with removing a part of the patient’s brain and subsequently reconstructing their face has got to be way at the top of the list. Now, imagine performing such a surgery on a six-month-old baby. That is the situation doctors in Connecticut faced when they met Kyra Duschene, who was born nine week early with a front encephalocele—a rare condition in which a part of her brain was growing through her nasal area.

Parents Andy and Jamie Duschene with baby Kyra

Without surgery, Kyra risked losing her vision, yet to perform the operation on such a small skull was incredibly risky and worrying to her parents: “This kind of surgery scares me just in itself for any kid, but for somebody so little, I think it’s even worse,” said Kyra’s mom, Jamie Duschene.

To make the surgery as safe as possible, the medical team used a $400,000 3D printer to replicate Kyra’s skull, practicing where they would make the incisions before putting her on the operating table. Because she was truly so small, the doctors used three different versions of her skull while practicing to make sure they got it absolutely right.

A doctor from the medical team demonstrating a 3D printed replica of Kyra's skull

On the day of, doctors spent roughly two hours anaesthetizing the six-month-old before a team of 20 surgeons began the grueling, nine-hour operation. After delicately pulling back the skin of Kyra’s face, they were able to remove the obtrusive brain tissue and then graft a piece of bone onto her nasal area. The entire procedure is documented in a TLC series titled “Body Bizarre,” which highlights stories of unusual and often life-threatening medical abnormalities and health conditions that people around the world must overcome.

While the episode is both graphic and heart wrenchingly tense, with Mr. and Mrs. Deschene agonizing over their daughter’s fate, there is a happy ending to this story: this September, baby Kyra celebrated her 1st birthday, and is shown laughing and smiling—with both her vision and facial tissue completely restored.

Just last week, a six-year-old girl’s lung surgery was also assisted with the help of a 3D printed model of her windpipe, which allowed doctors to test differently sized medical tools before operating. The creation of high-resolution, completely customized body parts, tailored to the highly specific needs of patients is just one of the many ways that 3D printing is saving lives like Kyra’s. 



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Jamie Deschene wrote at 2/8/2016 6:19:42 PM:

This little girl is a miracle. The work that the Dr's did with the 3d technology was great. It was amazing to hold the model in my hand with my husband as this is our daughter. I would have greatly appreciated being asked for permission to use the pictures though. Good article. Our family's name is Deschene. Have a wonderful day!

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