Belfast: How 3D printing has been helpful in a Kidney Transplant

Recently in Belfast, surgeons used a 3D printed model of a kidney to carry out a complex transplant operation on a young mother. It was a premiere in the complete excision of a Bosniak 2F renal cyst from a donor kidney without the requirement of revision surgery.

Pauline Fenton, 22, was living with end stage kidney disease and was wholly reliant on dialysis. Her 45-year-old father, William was confirmed to be a suitable living donor, unfortunately, he was blood group incompatible.
In addition, doctors discovered the father’s donor kidney was potentially cancerous, which added another level of complexity in the procedure that was already complex. As the cyst would first require treatment before the incompatible transplant could proceed, surgeons at Belfast City Hospital decided to use an innovative 3D printed replica model of the donor kidney (printed exactly from his CT scans).

3D printed replica model of the kidney

Thanks to the 3D printed replica model, the size and placement of the tumour and cyst have been verified. The surgical team could therefore plan and prepare for the surgery to remove the cyst and transplant the kidney to Pauline.

Tim Surgeon – images via axial3d

Consultant Transplant Surgeon Tim Brown explains “in this case, our donor’s kidney was the best possible option for his daughter’s life saving transplant, so we had to ensure precise and complete excision of the cyst to retrieve maximum healthy tissue for transplantation”. Furthermore, the consultant is certain 3D printing also played a part in helping them to give Pauline an improved quality of life and the opportunity to see her child grow up.

In this case, the use of 3D printing enabled to plan the surgery in detail, considering the best approach, as well as the potential problems, before stepping into the operating room. Furthermore, as far as costs are concerned, the average cost for a patient on dialysis is over £30,000 per year, which is reduced to £5000 per year in post-transplant management costs. By harnessing tools such as 3D printing, transplants thought to be too complex are now possible and many more people’s lives can be impacted.

Daniel Crawford, founder of axial3D, company which produced the model for Mr Brown said: “now that 3D prints are available via the NHS in Northern Ireland, we look forward to supporting more surgeons and patients with this technology.”

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