3D printing, which is synonymous with additive manufacturing in the industrial sector, is now quite popularly used as part of the mainstream treatment in surgery. In fact 3D printing is now seen as a potentially crucial procedure to surgically treat unborn babies with abnormalities.
Researchers from the Colorado Fetal Care Center has been studying on how to use 3D printing to perform surgery to correct fetal defects. Traditionally, surgical procedures involving unborn babies present not only risk to babies but also to the mothers.
Dr. Kenneth W. Liechty, a maternal fetal surgery specialist, noted that 3D printing will be very helpful in the pre-operative and intra-operative planning as well, as it will aid the patients to have faster healing process. The team of researchers conducted the first ever fetal surgery using 3D printing in April 2015.
The surgery involved an unborn baby who is suffering from myelomeningocele which is a common type of spinal bifida. Patients affected by this disorder will not be able to walk or will suffer from incontinence. It may also lead to other complications like hydrocephalus or the swelling of the brain. The researchers used a 3D printed replica of the fetus’ spine to assist the procedure.
The procedure was very sensitive but the doctors were able to successfully correct the condition of the unborn baby. With this recent development in 3D printing, it goes to show that 3D printing is not only used in additive manufacturing but it can also be used to save the lives of many, including unborn children.