Doctors successfully use 3D printing technique for transplanting father's kidney into toddler son in a pioneering surgery
In one of the pioneering procedures of organ transplantation, surgeons at at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London have successfully made use of 3D printing technique to pre-plan a transplantation of an adult kidney into a small child.
Two-year-old Dexter Clark's parents knew even before he was born that he would need a kidney transplant, and that his father would be the most likely donor.
But the operation posed risks since Dexter weighed less than 10 kg and his father's kidney being that of an adult was larger than average to be implanted into Dexter’s abdomen safely.
Most surgeries facing such complex anatomical issues as these often rely on conventional medical imaging for pre-surgical planning, that offers limited results.
However the cutting-edge technology, such as 3D printing truly has the potential to enhance and aid the decision-making process both during pre-surgical planning and in the operating room, thereby helping in the safety of what is a very complex operation and improved patient care.
3D printing is any of various processes in which material is joined or solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional object,with material
being added together (such as liquid molecules or powder grains being fused together).
In case of Dexter who was only able to eat from a feeding tube prior to the surgery, the CT scans were converted into anatomically accurate, multi-material 3D models. The two patient-specific models included- one of Dexter’s abdomen and one of Clark’s kidney.
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, enabled doctors to differentiate critical anatomical relations between structures. The flexible materials also allowed to mimic the flexibility of organs within the abdomen for simulation of the surgical environment. These models aided in non-invasively determining the feasibility, and optimal surgical approach, of the transplants in what would otherwise have been an invasive surgical exploration for the little patient.
During Dexter's operation, the 3D printed models were also taken into the operating theatre on the day of the transplant and reviewed by Mr. Nicos Kessaris (Consultant Transplant Surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust). Mr. Kessaris was able to use the models during the operation to assess the best way in which the donor kidney would lie and fit into Dexter’s abdomen. The transplant surgery was a success and Dexter is now able to eat solid food for the very first time since birth sans a feeding tube.
Given the success of this case the multi-material 3D printing within healthcare is sure to push new boundaries of achievements in coming future.