liver2It seems as though each and every day, surgeons and researchers in China are taking the idea of 3D printing and applying it more and more to real-time surgeries. The use of this up-and-coming technology has, on several occasions, turned previously thought to be inoperable surgeries into magnificent success stories. Today is no different, as doctors in Guangzhou, the capital city of the Guangdong Province in China, have turned what they had thought to be a very grim case of liver cancer into yet another successful surgery made possible thanks to 3D printing.

For one 35-year-old man, named Mr. Wu, he had been suffering from severe stomach discomfort and diarrhea for over 4 years. Misdiagnosed with a condition known as gastroenteritis, he had continued to live in pain and agony, until he was recently diagnosed with primary liver cancer. Doctors had found a large tumor located on Wu’s right hepatic lobe area. This tumor measured an incredible 10.6 cm x 11.7 cm x 12.4 cm in size and was connected to the right hepatic portal vein and its smaller venous branches. This is the area of the body that moves blood from the gastrointestinal tract and the spleen to the liver.

The tumor was entangled with these veins, making it extremely difficult to see exactly how it was intertwined, thus leaving surgeons with no surgical options when simply using 2-dimensional CT scans and other radiology equipment. Wu’s irregular tumor had found its way around his celiac artery as well, complicating matters even worse. Prior to 3D printing being available Wu would have most likely have been told to go home, and live out the rest of his days, or if they would have attempted to operate, typically such a surgery would have required Wu to have 70% of his liver cut out. This would have left him with a severely damaged liver, likely causing liver failure. However, 3D printing turned this surgery, which could have been considered “inoperable” just a year or two ago, into a remarkable success story.

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Using 3D modeling and scan data, doctors were able to create a 1:1 copy of Wu’s liver, veins and tumor, thus allowing them to carefully observe exactly where the tumor legions existed, and better prepare for surgery. Instead of having to remove 70% of Wu’s liver like they would have been required to do without the use of this model, surgeons were able to remove just 42.8% of the organ, while Wu suffered much less time under the knife, and less blood loss.

“For 3D printing technology in medical applications, the prospects are good,” Said lead surgeon, Fang Chi Jieshao. “3D printing model can also be applied to preoperative discussions, preparation, and to training for young doctors. It also helps patients and their families more easily understand their disease.”

This is just one more case of a previously thought to be inoperable or highly risky surgery turning into yet another success story, thanks in large to 3D printing. What do you think about this most recent case of 3D printing in the operating room? Discuss in the 3D printed liver model forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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