3D Printed Model of Skull Improves Precision in Surgery

3D Baby Skull 1

3D printing is being used to make major advancements in the medical field. Surgeons have been finding 3D printing to be extremely useful in surgeries which may be more complex or diverse than usual.

In the case of 6-month-old Gabriel, 3D printing has helped with reconstructive surgery for his skull.

Gabriel was born with no obvious defects. It wasn’t until a week after his birth that his parents noticed that something was different about him. Concerned for their child’s well-being and health, they took him to a pediatrician who then diagnosed Gabriel with “unilateral coronal synostosis,” a condition that causes a growth plate to fuse prematurely in an infant’s skull, causing the forehead to become distorted as it develops.

While not life threatening, more surgeries would be needed in the future if left untreated, and the asymmetry of the skull can become significantly worse. But putting their son under surgery, at such a young age, left Gabriel’s parents frightened.

A plan was put into motion to try a new surgery, one that would hopefully cut down on time that Gabriel would need to spend in the operating room. Through a collaboration with Medical Modeling Inc., Dr. Michael Egnor and Dr. Elliot Duboys were able to plan the surgery from start to finish – before even setting foot in the operating room.

With the aid of 3D printers, a model of Gabriel’s skull was created. Using the CT scans, before and after models of Gabriel’s skull was printed. Egnor and Duboys were able to use 3D printed templates, made from pieces of the 3D printed skulls, as a type of stencil, placing it on Gabriel’s skull during surgery to make their incisions more precise.

With more precise moves and cuts, the time spent in the operating room was cut down significantly. The surgery was also able to speed the recovery process. While Gabriel will still need to wear a helmet to help shape his skull, the overall surgery was successful, and his forehead is not as protruding as it was before.

“I think it’s going to become, over time, acknowledged as the best way to do procedures of this nature,” Dr. Egnor said, speaking of the 3D imaging and modeling. “I was hopeful that this would work nicely, and it made a believer out of me.”