May 18, 2018 | By Thomas

Surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London, are using 3D printing technology to improve the success rates of life-saving, complex organ transplantation in young children. This is exemplified in the case of two-year-old Dexter Clark, who was born with severe kidney problem recently received a larger-than-average kidney from his father, Brendan Clark.

Due to the complications of his illness, Dexter was able to eat only through a feeding tube and unable to enjoy a simple meal time with his parents and three brothers. It was clear that he would require a kidney transplant, with his father as the likely donor.

However Dexter was so small and weighed less than 10 kg, while his father’s kidney was much larger than that of the average adult male – leaving surgeons worried about the potential feasibility and safety of implanting the donor kidney into Dexter’s abdomen.

Ordinarily, to reach a decision whether such complex transplants in children are viable, patients such as Dexter would normally have been placed under anaesthesia and the surgeon in some cases required to conduct an invasive surgical exploration to determine feasibility. But in a pioneering procedure, doctors at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, scanned Mr Clark’s kidney and his son’s abdomen and created two intricate, patient-specific models using a €285K multi-material Stratasys 3D printer. The 3D printed model helped doctors appreciate aspects such as depth perception and space within the baby’s abdomen, which can often be difficult to ascertain when looking at conventional imaging.

3D printed model of Dexter's abdomen next to a 3D model of his father's kidney

In Dexter's case, the 3D printed models were also taken into the operating theatre on the day of the transplant and reviewed by transplant surgeons.

Mr. Pankaj Chandak, Transplant Registrar at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said, “The ability to print a 3D model of the patient’s anatomy in varying textures, with the intricacies of the blood vessels clearly visible within it, enables us to differentiate critical anatomical relations between structures. The flexible materials also allowed us to better mimic the flexibility of organs within the abdomen for simulation of the surgical environment.”

“This technology has the potential to really enhance and aid our decision-making process both during pre-surgical planning and in the operating room, and therefore can help in the safety of what is a very complex operation and improve our patient care,” says Mr. Chandak.

Emily Clark, Dexter’s mother, said, “Since the transplant, Dexter is a changed boy, eating solid food for the very first time.

"We always knew the operation would be complicated but knowing that the surgeons had planned the surgery with 3D models that matched the exact anatomy of my husband’s kidney and son’s abdomen, was extremely reassuring.

"We hope that Dexter’s case will offer other suffering families similar reassurance that cutting-edge technology, such as 3D printing, can help surgeons better treat their loved ones.”

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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