Surgeons in Barcelona remove a tumour in a 5 year old child using 3D model

  • It is the first time 3D modeling has been used in this way.

04.07.2014 - 10:14

La premsa lliure no la paga el govern, la paguen els lectors

Fes-te de VilaWeb, fem-nos lliures

A team of surgeons at the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital successfully removed a tumor from a five year old child by first preparing and practicing the “highly complex” procedure on a 3D printed tumor. The child had neuroblastoma, a difficult cancer to extirpate because of the surrounding blood vessels and arteries. In such cases, testing the procedure in advance “is key”, say experts, because it allows surgeons to study the most effective way of extracting the tumor without damaging other tissues, and to test the method before surgery. This was possible thanks to the use of a 3D replica of the tumor.

A 5-year old boy named Marc had been diagnosed with a common childhood cancer, neuroblastoma. The treatments given to him to help control the disease had been successful, but unfortunately a large tumor remained in his stomach area: a tumor that, up until recently, was considered inoperable.

Neuroblastoma is considered an “extremely aggressive” cancer that forms in nerve tissue and is diagnosed primarily in children during the first five years of life. The treatment involves surgical removal of the tumor, combining chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

However, the surgical removal of this tumor raises many difficulties because of its location. Neuroblastoma develops around blood vessels and arteries. This means that surgeons must proceed with extreme precision to extirpate the tumor cells without damaging the arteries and endangering the patient’s life. In Marc’s case, there were so many blood vessels and arteries surrounding the tumor and organs, that it was deemed almost impossible to operate.

Determined not to give up, a team of surgeons at the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital carefully planned the highly complex procedure to remove the tumor without damaging the surrounding arteries by reproducing and practicing the operation on a 3D simulation. In collaboration with the Fundació CIM, the technology center of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, BarcelonaTech (UPC), the team created a 3D replica of Marc’s neuroblastoma.

Using 3D models to trial the operation in advance “was key” in allowing doctors to identify the most effective way to tackle the tumor, and repeatedly rehearse the procedure, to perfect it before surgery. In addition, experts also pointed out this technique reduces the time of the operation, helps avoid complications and allows them to study how to remove the largest possible percentage of the tumor.

Thanks to the practice that they had on the 3D models, surgeons were able to complete a successful operation on the 5-year old boy, who is now expected to make a full recovery.

First case of producing a 3D copy for this purpose

Practitioners have noted that this is the first use of 3D printing for this purpose. And although it has long been used in the field of maxillofacial surgery, for the reproduction of bones, its application on soft tissue is new.

In this particular case, the copy of the tumor was made using a technology that allows printing on two types of materials. Thus, a resin was used to simulate the organ and blood vessels in the affected area, and another material of a translucent and soft consistency was used to replicate the tumor. By using these two materials surgeons could rehearse removing the tumor without damaging the vessels and organs.


La premsa lliure no la paga el govern. La paguem els lectors.

Fes-te de VilaWeb, fem-nos lliures.

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