3D Printing Technology Helps Surgeons Reconstruct Baby’s Skull

baby3dprinting_sizedA week after baby Gabriel was born last August, his parents noticed that the infant's forehead looked abnormal. Father Manuel Dela Cruz and his wife took the newborn to their pediatrician, where he was diagnosed with unilateral coronal synostosis – also known as anterior plagiocephaly. For infants with this condition, a growth plate fuses prematurely on one side of the skull and the forehead becomes distorted. The effects of the disease are mostly cosmetic, but the deformity can become worse if left untreated.

Surgeons at Stony Brook University in New York wanted to limit the time that the baby would spend in the operating room, so Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery Dr. Michael Egnor and his colleague Dr. Elliot Duboys collaborated with Medical Modeling Inc.of Golden, Colorado, a company that was able to create 3D printed before-and-after models of Gabriel's skull through use of a sophisticated computer program. The doctors were then able to pre-plan the entire surgery, working with templates showing the symmetry and dimensions for Gabriel's after-surgery look. Medical Modeling even prepared cutting templates: pieces of 3D modeling to be placed on the child's skull during surgery, allowing the surgeons to simply trace exactly where cuts to the skull should be made.

Both doctors told Fox News this week that the 3D modeling helped cut down the surgery time, which meant that Gabriel spent less time under anesthesia than during traditional surgery. In order to remove the deformed bone, the surgeons made an incision across the top of the forehead, exposing the front of the skull and the eye sockets. Then using a special saw, they removed four pieces of deformed bone and made precise cuts to help restructure the baby's head.

Gabriel will wear a helmet for a while to help reshape his forehead, but his parents are happy to report that he responded well to the surgery and his forehead protrusion is already noticably improved. Just three days after this amazing procedure, the baby was laughing and playing normally.