Nov 15, 2017 | By Benedict

3D printed models have been used to help separate conjoined twins in Rome. The pair, who are of Algerian nationality, were separated during a 10-hour surgery in which surgeons made use of the 3D printed models.

It’s already a busy week for 3D printing and babies. Just yesterday, we saw how surgeons in Australia had used a 3D printed plastic skull to help operate on a baby with a blocked nasal cavity, and today brings more good news: 3D printing has been used to separate conjoined twins.

Of course, 3D printing is generally required to fuse layers of an object together, rather than separate things apart. But in this case, things were a little different.

The two newborn girls, Rayenne and Djihene, had been born joined at the chest and abdomen. Now 17 months old, the Algerian girls needed to be separated for health reasons.

Separating conjoined twins, however, is no easy task, and surgeons are happy to receive any additional help they can receive to carry out such a procedure.

So when the time came to prepare for the operation at Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome, five medical teams totaling 40 people were all hard at work doing their bit to ensure that everything would go smoothly. They were led by Professor Alessandro Inserra, a surgeon at the hospital.

Those preparations took 11 months, and involved some hospital staff preparing and 3D printing 3D models of the babies—giving surgeons a better chance to examine the anatomy of the Siamese twins up close.

These models detailed the complex organ shape and vascular network of the young children, who shared an abdominal cavity, liver, rib cage, and sternum.

But there were many other factors that needed to be considered before surgery. Fortunately, the two girls each had a heart of their own, but because of the size of their joining area, they had nowhere near enough skin to cover their whole individual bodies once separated.

This meant doctors needed to use special silicone devices to help grow the babies’ skin at a fast rate, so that it could be placed over the split area after separation.

With the 3D printed models helping them out, surgeons were able to perform the tricky separation on October 7 in an operation that lasted a full 10 hours. Luckily, all went well, and the surgeons were even able to halve the length of the procedure, reducing the twins’ time under anesthetic.

“The girls have no functional problems and they are fine,” Inserra said. “In the future we will have to intervene again for aesthetic corrections, but their growth path will be normal.”

Unsurprisingly, the twins’ parents are incredibly grateful to Inserra and the other medical staff for their work.

“In our country the doctors told us that there was no solution,” said Amina, the mother of the two girls. “It took four months of searching, but when we received the invitation from the Bambino Gesù Hospital to come to Italy, we felt comforted.”

Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital is owned by the Vatican but operates under the control of the Italian national health service. In 2016, the hospital carried out around 50 pro bono procedures there.

Unfortunately, chances are often slim for conjoined twins, with around 75 per cent failing to survive due to complications, and it had been over 30 years since Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital had last performed a procedure of this complexity.

Another pair of conjoined twins—girls from Burundi who are connected at the buttocks—are due to be separated at the Rome-based hospital in the coming weeks.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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