3D Printing allows New Zealand Doctors to Practice Complex Life Saving Surgery

3D Printing allows New Zealand Doctors to Practice Complex Life Saving Surgery


Professor Beasley demonstrates the complex procedure on the 3D printed apparatus

Doctors from Christchurch are in the process of developing a 3D printed simulator to teach New Zealand doctors how to perform a lifesaving, rare operation on premature infants. The odds of being born with “oesophageal atresia” is one in 4000 births, effecting 10 to 15 patients a year in New Zealand. The rarity of the condition makes teaching the operation procedures to trainee doctors difficult.

These infants are born with their oesophagus not connected to their stomach and require the complex surgery within 24 hours of birth. Doctors have little to no room for error and are operating in the area of the size of a matchstick. In the past, surgeons made large incisions into infants to access the abnormal tubes. Keyhole surgery is now the preferred method because it causes less damage and reduces the pain in patientsrib1

3D printed chest cavity of the a premature infant with “esophageal atresia”

With 3D printing technologies quickly on the rise, Dr Jon Wells and Professor Spencer Beasley worked with 3D printing specialists to create an accurately scaled premature chest cavity from SLA 3D printed Resin. This model accompanied with the esophagus and windpipe made from silicone allows surgeons to simulate all aspects of the operation.

Other Teaching hospitals around the world use rabbit and piglet tissues to simulate the operation, but 3D printing allows the simulation to be cheaper and quicker to reproduce, and far more ethical. The whole operation kit fits inside a suitcase, further making the tool more accessible to doctors all over New Zealand and abroad. Wells and his colleagues are still in the process of proving that the kit can improve a surgeon’s skills in the this type of keyhole surgery, but they hope it’ll make its way into New Zealand medical schools in the near future.

Jacob Darowski