Lucy Boucher (right) is the first recipient of a kidney transplant from an adult donor that was supported by 3D printing. Her family is happy to report the surgery was successful.
Image credit: Guy's and St Thomas'
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kidney disease affects around 3.9 million Americans - or 1.7% of the population.
The National Kidney Foundation explains that chronic kidney disease (CKD) includes a number of conditions, and it also has various causes, the most common being diabetes and high blood pressure. If the kidneys fail, a transplant or regular dialysis is needed to keep the patient alive.
She had surgery for her heart condition, but lack of oxygen had caused kidney failure, which meant she needed dialysis three times a week, potentially for the rest of her life.
Now, experts have been able to carry out a transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, using a kidney donated by her father Chris, with the support of 3D printing technology.
A 3D printer was used to create models of Chris' kidney and Lucy's abdomen. These enabled surgeons to plan the highly complex operation accurately, in order to minimize the risks.
It was the first time that 3D printing had been used to support kidney transplant surgery from an adult donor to a child recipient.
3D printing enhances safety of surgical procedures
The 3D printer used measurements gathered through CT and MRI scans to produce a liquid plastic model, which was molded under ultraviolet light to reproduce the exact size and density of the body parts.
The model enabled surgeons to check whether the transplant would be feasible and to practice the operation beforehand. The transplant, which took 4 hours to complete, was successful.
Lucy's parents were surprised by the level of detail involved in the models and how big the kidney appeared to be. Her father says it helped him to understand the process and reduced his anxiety about the procedure.
Lucy's mother Ciara says:
"We found it amazing that we could see these incredibly detailed models of Chris' kidney and Lucy's abdomen. Considering all the potential complications, it's fantastic that everything has gone so well. It's a massive relief. The transplant is life changing for Lucy."
Mr. Pankaj Chandak, the transplant expert who had the idea of using 3D printouts, says this type of technology has a number of advantages for both patients and surgeons, the most important of which is safety.
The ability to plan and practice puts surgeons in a better position to prepare for the operation and to assess which strategy is most likely to ensure safety and success.
Lucy will now be able to live a normal life, attending nursery next year and swimming for the first time with her brother Daniel.
Michael Wright, head of the Health Investment department at Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, says that the 3D printer, which was purchased with the help of a charity grant, is attracting the interest of clinicians from many specialties. He says they hope to see more pioneering uses of the equipment very soon.