3D printing brain 3D printing brain Teresa Flint holding a 3D printed replica of the brain aneurysm that doctors used to save her life. (Photo: Stratasys)

3D printing helps surgeons save woman with near-fatal brain aneurysm

By studying a perfect replica of Teresa Flint's vascular anatomy, doctors were able to safely craft a life-saving procedure.

When you stop to consider the technological innovations we witnessed over the last year, some truly remarkable advancements float to the surface. We now have aerial drones that can not only capture stunning video, but also deliver packages. Virtual reality is on the cusp of becoming a standard piece of household entertainment. And yes, we even have self-driving vehicles on the road that can safely get us from A to B.

If you want an example, however, of genuine science fiction made real, there's no better evidence than the world of 3D printing. In just a few short years, the industry has evolved to become a classic example of disruptive innovation. Worldwide, from art to fashion to manufacturing, 3D printing is cutting costs, slashing development times and yes, saving lives.

The latest beneficiary of this technology is Teresa Flint, a mother of three whom doctors discovered was suffering from a life-threatening brain aneurysm. Surgery to repair such complications is extremely tricky, as doctors generally don't know the full extent of the problem until the patient is on the operating table.

This time, however, surgeons at The Jacobs Institute in Buffalo, New York, were able 3D print an exact replica of Teresa's entire brain vessel anatomy. The team used technology from Stratasys, a firm that produces cutting-edge 3D printers from its manufacturing headquarters in Israel.

"With the aid of Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D Printing Solutions, surgeons at some of the world’s leading hospitals are now able to quickly pinpoint affected areas on individual patients and practice surgeries on realistic anatomical 3D printed models," Stratasys' Scott Radar said in a statement. "This is expected to dramatically minimize risks associated with delays and complications stemming from real-time, in-procedure diagnoses.”

More than just a visual aid, the replica also mimicked the feel of human tissue thanks to different rubber-like materials the printer is capable of generating.

“By 3D printing models that mimic vascular feel, we can create an approach I don’t think is achievable any other way,” added Michael Springer, director of Operations and Entrepreneurship at The Jacobs Institute.

With doctors able to preempt complications and devise a safe method to remove the aneurysm ahead of time, Teresa's surgery was subsequently a complete success.

"I think it's wonderful to be able to practice, to know what you're doing beforehand," Teresa said in a video. "They took something that potentially could have been bad and made it a good experience."

3D printing brainThe 3D printed model of Teresa Flint's brain aneurysm was not only extremely accurate, but also mimicked "vascular feel." (Photo: Stratasys)


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