One in every 200,000 births produces conjoined twins and carries a very disheartening survival rate. The infants that do survive, often must undergo extremely intensive separation surgery if they wish to carry out a normal life. Due to the rarity of this occurrence, information and research is extremely limited, and doctors and surgeons have struggled to perfect – or even advance – separation operations as a result. However, some light has been shed on this grim situation, thanks to the technological development of manufacturing and digitization.
Over the last 10 years or so, 3D System’s 3D printing technologies, and their healthcare services department, have provided great aide to surgical teams. One such instance involved the Hernandez-Torres twins in 2016. Born conjoined at the pelvis as part of a triplet pregnancy, the twins required separation surgery. Dr. Haroon Patel and Dr. Kevin Hopkins, of the Driscoll Children’s Hospital in South Texas, utilized 3D Systems’ technologies to create a highly accurate 3D anatomical model. With the model, they were able to physically mimic the surgery with their operative team. As a result, they were able to generate a much more in-depth, accurate surgical plan . The ability to analyze and evaluate the twins actual anatomies was an extremely helpful tool in having a successful surgery.
“From my perspective, the more prepared we were, the less chance that anything was going to go wrong. So we just prepared, and prepared, and prepared…[with the 3D printed anatomical model] I could actually physically see [the surgery] taking place,” said Dr. Patel. “And that’s pretty powerful.”
In order to create the 3D anatomical model, the surgical teams sent medical imaging data over to 3D Systems’ engineers. Once in their possession, the engineers developed the data into a highly accurate 3D image. With this image, they weren’t just able to view it and study it on computers, but by utilizing 3D System’s Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Printing technology, they were able to 3D print a physical model. With the model, they could mimic the surgery and use it for reference while conducting the operation. Without the help of 3D technologies, the operation may not have been a success.