Surgeons use 3D model of kidney to save Belfast mother’s life

A 3D printed model of a kidney has been used in a life-saving transplant operation on a young Belfast mother in a medical first.

Pauline Fenton, 22, had been living with end-stage kidney disease and was wholly reliant on dialysis.

Her father, William, 45, was confirmed as a suitable donor. However, a potentially cancerous cyst was discovered on his kidney.

This is the point at which surgeons at Belfast City Hospital made the decision to use an innovative 3D printed replica model of the father’s donor kidney.

It was printed from his CT scans.

The model then allowed the team of doctors to ascertain the size and placement of the tumour and cyst, so the surgical staff could plan and prepare for the surgery to remove the cyst and transplant the kidney to Pauline.

“We planned and rehearsed the surgery precisely, using an exact replica of the donor kidney containing the size and position of the cyst, so my team knew the precise procedure required in the operating theatre,” said consultant transplant surgeon Tim Brown.

“This level of insight is just not achievable with standard pre-operative imaging.

“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.”

Mr Brown praised the “gift” Pauline’s father gave her and the role of a “living” donor, but he also said that 3D printing had a significant part in the life-saving operation.

“This father’s gift of life to his daughter proves the benefit of living organ donation but in this case, I’m certain 3D printing also played a part in helping us to give this young mother an improved quality of life and the opportunity to see her child grow up,” he said.

It is the first described case of its kind in the world.

Mr Brown said the model allowed him to plan the life-saving surgery in detail.

Daniel Crawford, the founder of Belfast company axial3D who produced the model said that improving outcomes is at the core of what they do.

“We work with surgeons with the core aim to improve patient outcomes, reduce operating times and ultimately help advance surgical education and planning for the future,” said.


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