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Doctors Use 3D Printing To Save Newborn's Life

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Three dimensional (3D) printing has been used to create replicas of objects as study materials, improve businesses and enhance presentations. Now, 3D printing has recently been found valuable in saving a newborn's life.

Doctors from the University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital used 3D printed models of a fetus' face.The baby was found to have a potentially fatal lump that could impair the airway. Through the modality, the doctors were able to decide whether or not to continue with a complicated birth procedure.

The mother of the baby named Megan Thompson was on her 30th week of pregnancy when she underwent an ultrasound that revealed a facial lump on her baby which is approximately about the size of a walnut.

The doctors performed a special magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure on baby Conan while inside the womb of his mother. The captured images were then printed using a 3D printer to come up with a model of the fetus' face. Through this, the doctors were able to know the exact location and potential hazards of the soft tissue mass.

Glenn Green, senior author of the report and an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the hospital said that based on the images, determining if the mass could block the baby's airway is unclear. He added that the team was able to actually see what the mass looked like and have something to refer to while making the decision on how to best take care of the child.

As far as the team knows, Green said this is the first case that 3D printing has helped present the severity of airway risk, which in turn assisted them in making clinical choices. He added that 3D printing may be a good modality to aid doctors in preparing for complicated cases before birth.

Aside from determining the airway risk, the added data collated from the 3D models enabled the doctors to decide against Ex Utero Intrapartum Treatment Procedure (EXIT), which involves the partial delivery of the baby while remaining attached to the placenta via the umbilical cord. Through this, the surgeon could establish the newborn's airway first.

"I was terrified when I found out there was a possibility my baby might not be able to breathe after birth," said Megan. She added that hearing her baby cry was the most emotional and incredible feeling as she knew he was OK.

"This technique has broad potential applications in fetal modeling of complex airway, cardiac, and other anatomic anomalies to assist in perinatal management strategies and newborn safety at birth," the researchers wrote.

The case was published in the journal Pediatrics on Oct. 5.

Photo: Clive Darra | Flickr

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