Surgeons use 3D printing to check dad’s kidney would fit in son’s abdomen in pioneering operation 

Surgeons use 3D printing to check dad's kidney would fit in son's abdomen in pioneering operation 

A British hospital has become the first in the word to use 3D printing to pre-plan a complicated transplantation of an adult kidney into a small child.

Dexter Clark, aged two, of Reading, Berkshire, was born with severe kidney problems which left him only able to eat from a feeding tube.

Although his father Brendan, 36, a regional schemes manager for AXA, agreed to donate his kidney, the adult organ was huge compared to cavity in which it was to sit, leaving surgeons worried that it would not fit.

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 3D printed both so that surgeons could find out if the transplant was even possible, and then work out the best way to insert the organ.

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

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.

His mother Emily Clark, 36, an IT business analyst, 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.”

In similar cases where surgeons are worried that transplant organs will not fit, subjects need to be ne placed under anaesthesia so that a surgical exploration can be carried out to determine feasibility.

But with 3D printed models of the patient, the need for surgical exploration can be reduced because pre-planning can happen before the patient is on the operating table.

Dexter with the whole family 

Dexter with the whole family 

Pankaj Chandak, Transplant Registrar at Guy’s and St Thomas’ 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.

“These helped us 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.

“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.”

The surgeons used a precision, multi-material 3D printer made by healthcare company Stratasys.

Michael Gaisford, Stratasys’ Director of Marketing, added: “Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust is pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with multi-material 3D printing within healthcare.

“It is a clear demonstration of the ability for 3D printing to enable physicians to better plan, practice and determine the optimal surgical approach.

“We are delighted to see Dexter has fully recovered and hope many other children can benefit from such forward-thinking applications of our technology.”

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