Jan 14, 2016 | By Kira

A team of Chinese doctors from the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai has used 3D medical technology to help plan and execute life-saving surgery on a pair of three-month-old conjoined twin brothers. The intense, five-hour operation that took place today represents the first time Chinese hospital has used both 3D modeling and 3D printing technology to successfully separate conjoined twins.

The three-month-old boys were brought into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) immediately after birth, where doctors found that not only were they conjoined at the chest and abdomen, but that they shared a liver as well as intrahepatic blood vessels (blood vessels inside the liver). This posed a significant challenge to the surgical team: if the blood vessels were not separated at precisely the right spot, the twins would lose a life-threatening amount of blood.

"Their body weight is very light, and there is the vessel situation. There could be massive hemorrhaging if the separating portion of the vessels is not precisely located," said Doctor Zheng Shan, the deputy chief of medicine at the Children's Hospital of Fudan University.

In order to get the most accurate representation of the conjoined twins’ bodies, the doctors turned to 3D modeling technology. Using a specialized software known as ‘Computer aided three dimensional support system for liver surgery’, or CAS, the Chinese doctors were able to create accurate 3D models of their patients’ anatomy.

The CAS 3D computer system clearly revealed six sets of intrahepatic vessels and how they were connected. This precision 3D imagery showed them exactly how and where to separate the conjoined liver. Next, 3D printed models were created based on the CAS’ 3D imagery, allowing the doctor’s to get hands-on experience with the patient-specific case and accurately plan for the upcoming surgery.

The 3D medical imaging software also allowed them to rotate and flip the 3D model in order to visualize it from all angles and explore every possible option to reduce blood loss during the surgery. The doctors even brought the 3D modeling software directly into the operating room so that they could visualize the infants’ blood vessels on-screen as they worked.

Doctors practicing with the 3D printed medical models

According to hospital sources, the intense surgery lasted five hours, however by early afternoon, the doctors emerged triumphant. The three-month-old conjoined twins had been successfully separated thanks to 3D printing technology. The hospital even reported that only 30ml of blood had been lost.

Previously, the Children's Hospital of Fudan University used 3D printed medical models to separate a set of conjoined twin girls, however today’s surgery marks the first time the hospital combined 3D printing technology with the CAS’ 3D modeling computer program. 3D printing also helped separate conjoined twins at a hospital in Houston last year, and in the case of Tyler and Tyson Proctor in Washington.

We have seen time and again how 3D modeling software and 3D printed medical models can assist doctors in planning and practicing complex surgeries, giving them accurate, three-dimensional insight into patient-specific cases, and saving invaluable time in the operating room. Today, 3D modeling and 3D printing technology saved not one life, but two, and as the technology improves, we can confidently say it will continue to save hundreds of thousands more.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Unknown wrote at 1/15/2016 6:09:47 PM:

when did this happen?

All Things 3D wrote at 1/15/2016 6:04:30 PM:

Great article Kira, we will be talking about it on '3D in Review" today.

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