Surgeons in Mumbai are experimenting with three-dimensional (3D) printed models of organs in complex surgeries.
On Sunday, doctors at Sir HN Hospital printed a 3D kidney, which helped the surgeons to have a dry run before actually operating on the patient, who had a cancerous tumour on the kidney.
Explaining how it was done, Dr Inderbir S Gill, the professor and chair University of Southern California and visiting faculty at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, said, “The data from the scan reports is fed into the computer and the 3D printer on the basis of the reports creates a 3D model of the organ just like it is in the patient’s body.”
Gill performed a partial nephrectomy — a procedure where only the part of kidney that needs to be operated is removed — on the patient, Mushtaq Ahmed, 48.
Before entering the operation theatre, Gill, along with his team of surgeons, did a recce of the procedure on the 3D printed kidney, which was of the same size, shape, and also a replica of the tumour.
“Such 3D models help us to explain the nuances of the surgery to the patient. Also, junior surgeons and students learn better. We have also developed a stimulator, which is patient-specific that allows the doctor to operate on the 3D model before operating on the real organ,” said Dr Gill, who has performed 30 surgeries where the 3D printing of the organ was done prior to the surgery.
Experts said the technology is still developing, and insurance companies do not finance the procedure. Also, the cost of printing an organ in the United States could be around $500 and the cost in India would be similar. With no insurance, it will be challenging to adopt the procedure, said experts. However, they agreed that in complex surgeries it can improve the outcome of the surgery.
Mulund’s Fortis Hospital in January performed a complex heart surgery on a five-year-old Palghar girl with the aid of a 3D printed heart. Doctors said she had two holes in her heart, a hardened pulmonary artery and a misplaced aorta, an important blood vessel.
Dr Vijay Aggarwal, paediatric cardiac surgeon, 3D printed the heart of the child with all the defects. “This gave us a clear idea on what we should expect on the operating table. We surgically uprooted the aorta, along with a muscle of the right chamber of the heart, and placed it on the left chamber, where it naturally should be,” he said.
The surgeons also planted a conduit made of a cow’s jugular vein, which will work as the pulmonary artery that was hardened in the child’s heart. According to Gill, a study he did on the use of 3D printing of organs showed that patients’ understanding of medical procedures dramatically improved with the technology.