While we are aware of the benefits of 3D printers which help us create any object of our choice (even things as dangerous as guns), doctors at the University of Michigan’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital recently used it to save a newborn’s life.
Doctors used 3D printed models of a foetus’ face to determine whether or not a rare and complex lifesaving procedure was required to save the baby’s life.
The baby’s mother Megan Thompson was about 30 weeks pregnant when she discovered a walnut-sized lump on the unborn child’s face through an ultrasound. The lump could have prevented the baby from breathing after it was born.
Using a specialised MRI of the foetus in the womb, doctors used printed 3D models of the foetus’ face to know the exact location and potential hazards of the soft tissue mass.
Also, the models helped doctors determine that the baby would not need an Ex Utero Intrapartum Treatment Procedure (EXIT).
The EXIT procedure requires a partial delivery of the baby while it remains attached by its umbilical cord to the placenta so that a surgeon can establish an airway to allow the baby to breathe.
A senior author, Glenn Green, associate professor of paediatric otolaryngology at U-M’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital, said:
“Based on the images we had, it was unclear whether the mass would block Conan’s airway after birth. The 3D printed model of the foetus allowed us to actually see in person what it looked like and have something in our hands to help us decide the best way to care for the baby.”
Terming it as the first case where 3D printing helped to show how severe an airway risk in a foetus was, Green added that it may be an incredibly valuable tool to help doctors prepare for complex cases ahead of a birth.
The baby was born via a scheduled C-section. Mother of the baby, Megan Thompson, said:
“I was terrified when I found out there was a possibility my baby might not be able to breathe after birth. Hearing him cry after he was born was the most incredible, emotional experience because I knew he was OK.”
The case was published in the journal ‘Pediatrics’.”This technique has broad potential applications in foetal modelling of complex airway, cardiac, and other anatomic anomalies to assist in perinatal management strategies and newborn safety at birth,” the researchers wrote.