Oct 10, 2017 | By Tess

A team of surgeons from the Amiens-Picardie University Hospital in France has successfully performed a complex spinal surgery on a six-year-old boy with the help of a robot and a patient-specific 3D printed model. The procedure was the first of its kind.

The patient in question is a six-year-old boy who was suffering from a combination of severe progressive scoliosis and infantile spinal amyotrophy, a condition that causes weak muscles. The scoliosis had become so severe that the young boy could not even sit. Obviously, something had to be done.

The complex surgery, which took place on September 28, was the result of over a year of planning on the part of Dr. François Deroussen, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon; Professor Richard Gouron, head of the child surgery department at the hospital; and Dr. Michel Lefranc, a neurosurgeon.

To prepare for the operation, the doctors took a scan of the child to get a detailed visualization of the position and state of his spine. With the 3D scan, the doctors were able to take their planning one step further by 3D printing an accurate replica model of the patient’s spine.

The 3D printed spine was then implanted into a dummy that matched the size of the young boy, which allowed the team of doctors to carefully plan and even simulate the surgery before the actual operation. Importantly, the 3D printed spine model enabled the doctors to ensure that the size of implant was correct, and also allowed them to test out the surgical robot.


The surgery itself, which lasted three hours, consisted of implanting stems along the patient’s spine through small incisions. The operation, which required extreme precision and care, was helped along by a robot named Rosa, which was used to drill and install screws into the spine, once the doctors had selected the screw fixing points.

As the team explained, “Laying [the screws] close to the nerve roots remains very complex and uncommon; they are large in comparison to the small size of the child’s bones (a screw of 7 mm in diameter in a bone of 8 mm). The complexity of the operation as well as its potentially long duration could be alleviated, for the first time, thanks to the Rosa robot.”

Since the operation took place, the young patient has reportedly been recovering well, and has even been able to sit properly. The breakthrough surgery—the doctors say it will only be used in extreme cases such as the young boy’s—will help the patient to have not only a more comfortable life but also to avoid certain health problems associated with severe scoliosis.

Currently, there are four other children awaiting the same operation.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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