A 3D printed kidney model, manufactured by axial3D, has enabled surgeons to successfully perform a complex transplant operation on a young mother in Belfast.

Pauline Fenton, 22, was suffering from end-stage kidney disease and was dialysis-dependant when her father, William, 45, was confirmed to be a suitable living donor, but was blood group incompatible. The discovery of a Bosniak 2F renal cyst on William’s donor kidney further complicated proceedings. Potentially cancerous, it would need treatment before the incompatible transplant could be carried out.

Surgeons at Belfast City Hospital turned to 3D printing for a helping hand, CT scanning the kidney, and printing a replica model. It allowed the surgical team to determine the size and location of the cyst, and plan the procedure accordingly. Once the cyst had been removed, Pauline could then receive the replacement kidney.

“We planned and rehearsed the surgery precisely, using an exact replica of the donor kidney containing the size and position of cyst, so my team knew the precise procedure required in the operating theatre,” commented Tim Brown, Consultant Transplant Surgeon at Belfast City Hospital. “This level of insight is just not achievable with standard pre-operative imaging. This father’s gift of life to his daughter proves the benefit of living organ donation but in this case, I’m certain 3D printing also played a part in helping us to give this young mother an improved quality of life and the opportunity to see her child grow up.”

Belfast-based axial3D were the company on hand to 3D print the replica kidney, harnessing the expertise of its specialist team to deliver an accurate and ultimately life-changing model. The company has long-been promoting the adoption of additive manufacturing within the medical sector, and in recent weeks established a Scientific Advisory Board to oversee its own medical 3D printing activities.

With cost-saving at the forefront of the NHS agenda now more than ever, axial3D believes there’s plenty of scope for 3D printing’s incorporation into state medical centres, and uses the Pauline Fenton case as a prime example. The average cost for a patient on dialysis is more than £30,000 per year, which is reduced to £5,000 post-transplant. 3D printing can mean that price reduction is reached quicker, and safely.

“We work with surgeons with the core aim to improve patient outcomes; reduce operating times and ultimately help advance surgical education and planning for the future,” said Daniel Crawford, Founder of axial3D. “We’re proud that our technology can have profound positive impacts on improving the quality and length of patients’ lives and we’re delighted that our work provided significant benefit for this family.

“It is vital that our amazing surgeons have access to the best and most innovative solutions to support them in planning for very complex procedures. 3D printing offers an exciting opportunity for hospitals to reduce costs, elevate care, and most importantly, improve patient outcomes. Now that 3D prints are available via the NHS in Northern Ireland, we look forward to supporting more surgeons and patients with this technology.”

Source : TCT magazine