May 31, 2016 | By Tess

Craniosynostosis is an infantile condition in which a baby’s skull bones grow together too quickly and cause irregular head shape and brain growth. The condition, which affects 6 out of every 10,000 infants can have serious effects on a child’s development as it causes pressure on the brain and thus can result in serious developmental disorders and even recurring seizures. To treat Craniosynostosis, doctors have to act quickly as best surgical results occur before the age of one, while the cranium is still developing and soft. Of course, as one can imagine, the process of operating on an infant’s skull can be complicated and high in risk, so precisely planning a surgical procedure is of crucial importance. This is where 3D printing comes in.

Recently, a team of doctors from Shanghai Children’s Medical Center were able to successfully perform a craniosynostosis treatment surgery on an eight-month-old boy Jia Jia (whose name has been changed for this article) with the help of a 3D printed surgical guide. Jia Jia, who was suffering from a quite severe head deformity, was unable to be treated at any of the local hospitals in the Jiangsu Province where he is from. When finally brought to the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, doctors were able to diagnose him with craniosynostosis, and set about planning a treatment for the young child.

After many tests and images, the team of doctors, led by Dr. Bao Nan, the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery, determined that Jia Jia’s skull had a bilateral coronal suture closure, which resulted in a towering head, flat forehead, a narrow anterior fontanelle, and other facial abnormalities. As the doctors explained, the particular shape of Jia Jia’s skull would likely limit the development of the frontal part of his brain, specifically the section related to emotional development and IQ, so operating quickly was very important.

The surgery required for treating craniosynostosis involves two major steps: first, disassembling the patient’s skull to release the oppressed brain, and secondly to split, re-splice, and ultimately remodel the infant’s skull into the correct shape and dimensions. Additionally, as each case of the cranial disease is unique, a lot of planning is involved for each procedure to minimize risks as much as possible. Traditionally, surgeons would have to do most of the work while the skull was open in surgery, and could only truly see the results at the end of the surgery, when the skull and scalp were sutured. Now, however, and as Dr. Bao Nan explains, 3D printing has offered surgeons a way to visualize and fully plan their procedure before even making the first incision.

In Jia Jia’s case, the team of surgeons were able to 3D print a 1:1 ratio model of the infant’s skull which allowed them to physically draw out the surgical cutting lines on the 3D printed model. In addition to the surgical guidelines, 3D scanning and printing technologies have also allowed the doctors to measure the child’s parents physical features, so that when remodeling the infant’s skull and features, family traits can be accounted for.

Jia Jia’s surgery took place just over a week ago on May 21st, 2016 and lasted a total of four hours. According to the surgeons involved, the procedure was an immense success as the young child now has a regular skull shape which will not inhibit his brain’s growth.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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