Hospital used 3D printing to assist skull base tumor removal
A Chinese hospital has successfully removed a skull base tumor for a 38-year-old patient with the help of 3D modeling system and 3D printing.
38-year-old patient Mr. Zhang suffered from frequent headaches and he was diagnosed with meningioma saddle nodules.
"The tumor was located deeply close to the skull base, and it connected with the internal carotid artery and optic nerve. The surgery would be very complicated." said Dr. Li Xuejun, an associate professor of skull base tumors Clinical Research Center at Xiangya Hospital in Central South University.
Using a self-developed E-3D medical 3D modeling system and the CT scans of the patient, the hospital created high-precision 3D models of Zhang's skull base and tumor. Then they printed them out using the latest generation of 3D printers.
3D printing 'clones' the skull base, tumor, vascular network and other structure of patient
By tweaking the printer's settings, doctors mimicked the consistency of tumor and related nerves and blood vessels to build up the layers in different textures and densities. The skull was then printed using polymer materials. The model were completely printed in accordance with the actual proportion of the tumor and the skull.
"The 3D printed tumor model with internal structure and the skull showed clearly what the position of the tumor is and which vessel is connected." says the doctors. "Traditionally such skull base tumors surgery was mainly based on CT images of patients, but there could be 'blind corners' from these 2D CT images. If the tumor is not totally removed, the chance for tumor recurrence is high. " said Dr. Li. "With 3D printing technology, doctors no longer need to 'imagine' such a surgery, but can practise in advance and prepare for more precise surgery." Li added.
3D printing technique allows doctors to fully understand the brain tumor before the surgery. Knowing the shape, size of the tumor and the surrounding tissue helps doctors to determine surgical access route and excision area for a successful surgery. Meanwhile it could also help to protect the tissue around the tumor and reduce the incidence of complications and sequelae.
The patient underwent the surgery on Jan.2, 2014 and two days after the operation he could already get out of bed and walk.