3D printing continues to transform lives in the health sector by leaps and bounds.
After Lucy Boucher, the two year old from Northern Ireland, suffered heart failure as a baby, due to supra-ventricular tachycardia (meaning her heart was beating irregularly faster than normal), Lucy ‘s body, including her kidneys, was starved of oxygen eventually leading to kidney failure. The child was then faced with the prospect of a lifetime of dialysis treatment.
Lucy was then referred to Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS and Great Ormond Street Hospital where she received a kidney transplant from her father, Chris Boucher on November 24, 2015. What makes her case special is that it is the first time in the world that 3D printing has been used to aid kidney transplant surgery involving an adult donor and a child recipient.
In Lucy’s case, 3D technology was not used to print out a new organ for Lucy; it was used to minimize risk associated with her surgery. Considering that Chris Boucher is a grown adult, and Lucy a mere toddler, their kidneys differ vastly in size, making the process of the transplantation very minute and sensitive.
Models of Lucy’s abdomen and Chris’ kidney were printed using the hospital’s 3D printer so that the doctors could plan and perform the complex surgery accurately with minimum risk.
Lucy’s father Chris, an assistant lay minister says, “When I first saw the models I was taken aback by the level of detail that’s in them. It really helped me get an idea in my head of what was going to happen...Seeing the model of her abdomen and the way the kidney was going to be transplanted inside her gave me a clear understanding of exactly what was going to happen. It helped ease my concerns and it was hugely reassuring to know that the surgeons could carry out such detailed planning ahead of the operation.”
The four hour long surgery was a successful one and saw Lucy and her father recovering steadily soon afterwards. This application of 3D printing technology to replicate operating environments in order to ensure risk minimization for patients and informative, hands-on planning, ahead of the surgery is sure to change more lives in the coming.