Sep 4, 2014 | By Alec

Recently Doctors in Boston's Childrens Hospital have successfully used 3D printing technology to perform a hemispherectomy on the 18-month-old Gabriel. This is one of the most complicated operations to perform on a child's brain, and aims to disconnect the healthy half of the brain from the one causing seizures. However, by making a highly detailed replication of Gabriel's brain using 3D printing technology, doctors were able to do a practise run, which severely decreases the number of risks involved and eventually allowed them to successfully finish the operation.

As the infant's mother Erin Mandeville told reporters of The Verge, her young son began suffering from horrific seizures about a year ago. One Tuesday last summer, while they were out buying medicine, her then five-month old Gabriel first suffered from spasms. Hundreds of other small seizures would follow over the next year.

These spasms or epileptic seizures can be extremely dangerous for a child's development, as they can effectively erase any development a child makes. As Mandeville explained, 'They call them "mind erasers" actually, because many children who end up with these spasms forget everything they've already learned. The scariest part was that he could actually end up forgetting who we were."

Doctors at Boston Children's Hospital tried every option and medicine to help the young boy recover from this terrible condition, but the severity of his condition worsened and eventually decided on the very invasive hemispherectomy. 'I didn't know how invasive it would be,' Gabriel's mother told reporters. 'But, if it was going to make him have a better life, it was an easy choice to make.'

Dr. Jospesh Madsen, who is the director of the epilepsy program at the Boston hospital called this procedure 'one of the most challenging operations in paediatric epilepsy surgery' and even highly experienced surgeons would therefore greatly benefit from a good dress rehearsal.

Fortunately for Gabriel and the many other children who are admitted to the Boston Children's Hospital, the hospital has launched its own in-house 3D printing service in February 2014. As we reported earlier, this service has been built by Peter Weinstock, MD, PhD, and Boston Children's Simulator Program, and allows doctors can print out any 3D models in much shorter time.

The printer they use has a resolution down to 16 microns and can print objects in multiple materials. The high resolution 3D printer allows models to be made in fine details, which can be critical for building something small such as a baby's brain or skull. The multiple material 3D printer can print replicas of organ in different tissue types, allowing the surgeons to see the structure clearly and accurately determine the right margins in operation. In addition, these models can also be used to help parents understand their children's surgeries, while it can also prove vital for surgeons-in-training. After all, who would want to be a new surgeon's first patient?

The model of Gabriel's brain has been 3D printed in soft plastic with a precision of 16 microns per layer, while the many blood vessels of the brain are set in a contrasting colour to aid the surgeons. The model was also used to keep Gabriel's parents up-to-date, who were privy to the entire process and all the complications that could occur. The surgeon told The Verge that 'this is a printed version that the surgeon can hold, cut, manipulate, and look for things'.

The surgery itself took lasted some 10 hours, and was successfully concluded. The now 18-month-old Gabriel is completely free of seizures, though new complications are not completely ruled out. However, his mother hopefully explained that 'kids' brains are so resilient. He's already re-wired himself. He's starting to hit the milestones he missed — he wakes up smiling every day.'

Dedicated readers will note that the role that 3D printing technology plays in medical procedures – either for simulations or implants – seems to be growing. This is also the case at Boston Children's Hospital, where this potential is highly valued; their printing program has developed close to 100 prints over the past year, of which some 20 per cent have made their way into operating rooms.

They are currently looking into possibilities for on-demand anatomy printing programs for emergency needs, and seek to include the knowledge of surgeons, radiologists and other specialists into their printing program to increase its effectivity. As dr. Peter Weinstock noted, 'we can't be prepared for every possibility, but we can chop off a large number of complications.'

'The technology is coming,' he continues. 'The question is: how do we develop and make use of the technology that will have an immediate effect on how we take care of children?'

Watch The Verge's report here:



Posted in 3D Printing Materials

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Scott wrote at 9/4/2014 3:25:16 PM:

Spelling error in title:'brain erasers'?

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