How 3D Printing Helped Save This Newborn

Conan Thompson became first baby to have a 3D printed model made of his face while still in the womb to help doctors determine whether he would need a lifesaving procedure at birth.

Photo Caption: Using a specialized MRI of the fetus in the womb, doctors were able to use a 3D printer to print models of the fetus face, helping determine exactly where and how dangerous the soft tissue mass was. (Photo Credit: University of Michigan Health System)

When Megan Thompson was 30 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound showed a walnut-sized lump on the face of her unborn son, Conan. Doctors were concerned the lump would prevent him from breathing after birth, but that was unclear based on the ultrasound pictures.

Thompson was sent to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital where using a specialized MRI of Conan while he was still in the womb, doctors 3D printed a model of his face to determine exactly where and how dangerous the mass was. The case is outlined in the November issue of Pediatrics.

“The 3D printed model of the fetus allowed us to actually see in person what it looked like and have something in our hands to help us decide the best way to care for the baby,” explains Glenn Green, one of the doctors who worked on the case.

From that 3D-printed model, doctors determined the mass didn’t pose any threats, and Conan, who in now nine months old, was born via a scheduled caesarean section.

“I was relieved that I didn’t need the more complicated and risky surgery and could be awake for the birth of my first baby,” said Megan. “I’m glad that what they did for Conan may help other babies and their families in similar situations.”

Had the mass been a threat, Conan would’ve needed a risky and expensive surgery called an Ex Utero Intrapartum Treatment Procedure (EXIT), which requires a partial delivery of the baby while it remains attached by its umbilical cord to the placenta so that a surgeon can establish an airway to allow the baby to breathe.

“I was terrified when I found out there was a possibility my baby might not be able to breathe after birth,” recalls Thompson. “Hearing him cry after he was born was the most incredible, emotional experience because I knew he was OK.”

Conan Thompson, now nine months old.

[Source:] UofM Health

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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