Jan 26, 2016 | By Tess

As scientists and researchers work towards successfully 3D printing organs and body parts, additive manufacturing technology has also contributed to the medical world in many other ways, perhaps most significantly in the planning of steps for complicated surgeries. Recently, this application of 3D printing helped surgeons to successfully transplant a kidney to Lucy, a toddler from Northern Ireland.

Chris and Lucy Boucher

Two-year-old Lucy Boucher, who suffered from heart failure as an infant, was destined for a life of kidney failure and dialysis treatments three times a week until doctors from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust told her family there was a chance of successfully transplanting a kidney from Lucy’s father, Chris, to the young child.

The surgery, which required transplanting an adult 35 year old kidney into a small toddler, was successfully completed this past November thanks to 3D printing technologies which allowed doctors to understand and visualize the operation they were undertaking. Lucy’s transplant marks the first time 3D printing has been used to help in the transplant of an adult kidney to a child.

In preparation for the surgery, models of Chris Boucher’s kidney and Lucy Boucher’s abdomen were 3D printed based off of CT and MRI scans to ensure that the doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital could properly plan out the surgery and even practice the operation.

As Mr. Pankaj Chandak, a transplant registrar at Guy’s and St Thomas’, explains, “Our exciting new use of 3D printed models to help plan highly complex kidney transplant surgery in children brings all sorts of important advantages for our patients and the surgical team. The most important benefit is to patient safety. The 3D printed models allow informative, hands-on planning, ahead of the surgery with replicas that are the next best thing to the actual organs themselves. This means surgeons are better placed than before to prepare for the operation and to assess what surgical approach will offer the greatest chance of a safe and successful transplant.”

Not only helpful for planning the surgeries, however, the models of both the kidney and the abdomen helped to explain to the Boucher family what the exact procedure Chris and Lucy were being put through. “My first reaction when I saw the 3D printout of my kidney was surprise at how big it was and I wondered how it could possibly fit into Lucy,” explains her father Chris Boucher, an assistant lay minister. “Seeing the model of her abdomen and the way the kidney was going to be transplanted inside her gave me a clear understanding of exactly what was going to happen. It helped ease my concerns and it was hugely reassuring to know that the surgeons could carry out such detailed planning ahead of the operation.”

Boucher family

Having the 3D printed models put the patients’ minds at ease as they were able to not only hear what the procedure was, but actually visualize it. For Chris and Lucy Boucher, who are both reportedly recovering well from their respective surgeries, 3D printing technology and the doctors who successfully performed the miraculous surgery are to thank. As Lucy’s mother Ciara Boucher adds, “Considering all the potential complications, it’s fantastic that everything has gone so well - it’s a massive relief. The transplant is life-changing for Lucy.”

As 3D printing technologies continue to change the face of the medical field, giving people more options for treatments, and facilitating education and understanding between patients and doctors, we are sure many more successful stories such as Lucy’s will pop up, and we can’t wait to hear them.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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