Nov 13, 2017 | By Benedict

A 3D printed skull has helped an Australian infant survive a birth complication. Baby Sophia, from Perth, was born with bone fused over her nasal cavity, and could not breathe without a ventilator. Surgeons used a 3D printed model to get a better look at the skull before operating.

Sometimes, when you have a cold or are suffering from allergies, it gets hard to breathe because your nose is so stuffed up. But imagine how much worse it would be if you had solid bone closing up your nostrils.

That’s how Sophia, a young baby from Perth, was actually born.

When mother Brooke Seidel gave birth to little Sophia, she couldn’t hear any crying. This was cause for concern for all around, and doctors had to carry out immediate treatment on the baby.

“It's not an easy sight when you see a minute old baby and they're doing compressions on her chest,” the mother said. “We didn't know if she was going to make it.”

The lack of crying was because baby Sophia couldn’t breathe properly—due to bone having fused over her nasal cavity. At this point, however, doctors hadn’t yet diagnosed the problem, and had to put the baby on a ventilator to keep her alive while they examined her.

When the problem was spotted, Dr Jenn Han, a surgeon at Princess Margaret Hospital, asked biomedical engineers if a plastic 3D printed model could be made depicting Sophia’s weird skull.

Han was preparing to perform the surgery on Sophia, but wanted to get a better feel for the exact shape and size of the baby’s head before operating.

“She was born fairly small for her age as well, and whether the instruments were going to fit in her nose was one of the most important considerations—whether I could do the surgery on such a small baby,” Han said.

Once the model skull had been 3D printed using visual data acquired from CT scans, Han was able to use her surgical instruments and see whether they would do the trick for the procedure required. Because of Sophia’s size, Han had to use the kind of instruments normally used on ear canal surgeries.

Thankfully, the 3D printed model offered positive signs that the surgery would be possible, and Han then used the replica skull to explain to Sophia’s parents what would happen.

“I was able to explain to Sophia's parents exactly what condition it is because its so hard to draw for them to visualise what's going on,” Han said. “We could see exactly the scope of what needed to be done and to make sure that the surgeon had the right tools that would fit properly in her nose.”

The 3D printed model also meant surgery could be carried out in a shorter time, which meant Sophia didn’t have to be under anaesthetic for quite so long.

The newborn may have to undergo a few more procedures before she’s fully fit and well, but the 3D printing-assisted procedure has done its job for the time being.

It’s something her parents will never forget either: they’ve kept the 3D printed skull!



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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