3D Printing Helps save a Michigan Baby


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

Haelle.