3D printing for Northern Irish girl’s kidney transplant ‘a world first’

27 Jan 2016

Surgeons in London have just achieved a major first, with a 3D printer aiding the successful kidney transplant of a young Northern Ireland girl.

Using the hospital’s 3D printer to create study models of two-year-old Lucy Boucher’s abdomen – and her donor father’s kidney – doctors at Guy’s and St Thomas’ were able to plan to an incredibly accurate level exactly what they would do during surgery.

The subsequent theatre time proved successful, with this pioneering approach to medicine paving the way for further work in the future. The world first, in this case, was relating to a transplant from an adult to a child.

Lucy suffered heart failure as a baby, with subsequent issues resulting in her kidneys being starved of oxygen. Her father Chris donated his kidney, which the surgeons could accurately model through CT and MRI scans.

The Boucher family, via Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital | 3D printing

The Boucher family with now three-year-old Lucy (right), via Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital

The 3D printer produced a model of liquid plastic, moulded under ultraviolet light to replicate the body part’s size and density.

The resulting prototypes allowed surgeons – led by Prof Nizam Mamode – to assess the feasibility of the transplant and to rehearse each step of the operation.

“Our exciting new use of 3D-printed models to help plan highly-complex kidney transplant surgery in children brings all sorts of important advantages for our patients and the surgical team.

“The most important benefit is to patient safety. The 3D-printed models allow informative, hands-on planning ahead of the surgery with replicas that are the next best thing to the actual organs themselves,” Prof Mamode said.

The hospital’s 3D printer, Guy’s and St Thomas’ | 3D printing

The hospital’s 3D printer, via Guy’s and St Thomas’

“This means surgeons are better placed than before to prepare for the operation and to assess what surgical approach will offer the greatest chance of a safe and successful transplant.”

The whole experience stunned donor Chris, who found viewing the 3D printout of his daughter’s abdomen “phenomenal”.

Main surgery image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic