It isn’t possible to overstate the kind of change that having a baby brings to your life. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, it’s a wonderfully terrifying experience that can leave you shaken to the core, and that’s when everything goes right. I have had a number of babies myself, and I can tell you that there is no sigh of relief until the baby is healthy in your arms. And then not again until they turn 35.It’s hard to think about the feelings that must have been experienced by a couple in Perth when their baby was born and there was no accompanying cry. Instead, what the horrified couple heard was their doctor yell “code blue” and begin performing chest compressions. Little Sofia was diagnosed with a rare birth defect that caused the bone in her skull to completely fuse over her nasal cavity, leaving her unable to breathe through her nose. As babies are unable to breathe through their mouths, this was a life threatening condition. After reviving Sofia, she was hooked up to a machine that helped her to breathe and her family and medical team began to prepare for her surgery. Her mother described the experience:
“It’s not an easy sign when you see a minute old baby and they’re doing compressions on her chest. We didn’t know if she was going to make it.”
Catch Up: Saving Sophia – how a hi-tech plastic skull helped the newborn who couldn’t breathe. Graeme Butler reports. www.todaytonightadelaide.com.au#TTAdelaide
Posted by Today Tonight Adelaide on Tuesday, 7 November 2017
It was imperative that baby Sofia have surgery immediately. Luckily, she was at the Princess Margaret Hospital in the hands of the skilled Dr. Jenn Ha who knew exactly what to do. She quickly reached out to the 3D team at Royal Perth Hospital. The increased awareness within the medical community regarding the potential presented by 3D printing also means that there are more 3D teams already integrated into medical facilities, making it possible, in this case, for them to create an exact 3D model of the baby’s skull in house. The rapid turn around time and expert eyes afforded by these facilities are changing the face of medical practice and proved vital to preparing for the surgery, as Dr. Ha explained:
As a result of being able to practice with the 3D printed model, the surgical team realized before the fact that the tools traditionally used for surgery wouldn’t fit on such a small patient. As a result, Dr. Ha was able to prepare, rather than finding out in the moment, and use smaller tools that are typically used for operations to be performed in the smaller spaces of the ear canal.
“She was born fairly small for her age…and whether the instruments were going to fit in her nose was one of the most important considerations – whether I could do the surgery on such a small baby. It’s often much easier to have the solid [3D printed] object in your hand you can turn over, roll it around…[T]o practice surgery as in this case, they really needed to know if the instruments were going to fit. The only real way to do that is either try them in the patient or, in our case, try them on a model.”
In addition to providing the surgeon with information before the surgery, the model was valuable in explaining to Sofia’s parents exactly what her condition was and how the operation would help to address it. This is one way in which 3D printed models have been making medical interventions more accessible to both the patients and their families, serving to prepare the medical team for the operation itself, and helping to alleviate the incredible stress surrounding such procedures. As a result, the use of 3D printed models is becoming a more standard component of a wide variety of surgical procedures. As Dr. Ha stated:
“To be able to know what we are going to do as surgeons before we get there gives you confidence. I was able to explain to Sofia’s parents exactly what condition it is because it’s so hard to draw for them to visualize what’s going on. We could see exactly the scope of what needed to be done and to make sure that the surgeon had the right tools that would fit properly in her nose.”
While some parents have impressions or casts made of their babies’ feet or hands, in this case, the family has a 3D print of their baby’s head.The result was a successful outcome that has repaired the defect in her nasal cavity and left both Sofia and her parents breathing easy.
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