At 5 months, a baby named Gabriel “has started to develop worrying symptoms such as spasms and fainting“. No treatment was administered to this child – a victim of significant bouts of epilepsy. So a team of doctors at Boston’s Children’s Hospital suggested to her parents that Gabriel should undergo a hemispherectomy – a highly invasive operation involving “disconnecting one of the hemispheres of the brain (the damaged hemisphere) from the other healthy hemisphere“.
As the procedure was not straightforward and warranted considerable accuracy, the surgeons decided to reproduce “a plastic model identical to Gabriel’s brain, using 3D printing”. The aim? To practice performing the surgery on the model. Finally, “the operation, which lasted 10 hours, was made much easier because even though the practice run could not cover all possible complications“, the surgeons were nevertheless much better prepared.
The baby who is now 18 months old, “is much better and no longer has any episodes“. Since this procedure, “the 3D duplication technique has been used by no less than around twenty Boston hospitals“.
A few weeks ago, Chinese surgeons managed to implant a 3D printed vertebra into the vertebral column of a 12 year-old child – a world first (Gènéthique press review on August 27th, 2014).