On October 6, 2015, doctors in Michigan were alarmed when they saw a large mass on
a fetus’ face that is late in pregnancy for this could possibly block the baby’s airway at
birth. Such abnormalities were obscure, and the doctors are unsure if the baby would
need a breathing apparatus in order to survive. However, 3D printing helped the doctors
to figure out what to do.
The medical team claimed that 3D printing technology had removed the guesswork.
According to Dr. Albert Woo, a pediatric plastic surgeon at St. Louis Children's Hospital,
it was the first time they used the technology to detect facial deformity and sternness of
airway risk with a newborn.
The problem was discovered when the 22 year old mother-to-be was 30 weeks into
pregnancy. When she underwent an ultrasound, the problem was not yet detected
because the imaging did not provide sufficient information. Then she was subjected into
an MRI, but still the results were the same. The doctors are still confused if the airways
would be clear after birth.
However, a successive, specialized MRI captured more data that the University of
Michigan doctors could make use of a 3D printed model of a fetal face. Based on report,
the 3D model predicted a cleft lip and palate deformity -- without airway obstruction. The
baby's delivery and discharge went on without incident.
With the use of a special "printing" machine that heats up plastic and follows a computer
program's instructions to layer the plastic into a three-dimensional shapes, medical
applications so far have included printing prosthetic limbs, medical supplies, models of
jaws to use in reconstruction and other feats.
Woo also added that the use of 3D printing itself should not bring any risks to patients.
However, there are two potential downsides of the technology; the high cost and the
possibility of being overused.
The estimated cost of software that was used to create the model $10,000 to $20,000
was per year.
Based on the story Doctors Use 3D Printing to Safeguard Baby Before Birth by Tara