Despite it is not a mainstream technique yet, 3D printing has already saved tons of lives. A great story came in today: psychotherapist Pamela Shavaun Scott can still see thanks to 3D printing. The woman was suffering from a benign meningioma behind her eye, but the doctors weren’t too concerned when they found out. She was told to go on with her life and have a follow up MRI scan after a year. Scott and her husband weren’t pleased about it, also because she was suffering from headaches and she had a decreased vision. They therefore decided to search for a solution themselves.
They went for second opinions, and eventually Scott was able to have surgery. Balzer had a some experience with 3D technology and he used the available scan results to create a 3D model of his wife’s skull, so he could see what the tumor looked like.
Scott underwent a professional follow-up scan which indicated that her tumor was growing way quicker than was expected initially – it indicated a much more aggressive meningioma. However, using his 3D model of the brain, Balzer soon found out that this was actually a misdiagnosis. What had happened? The radiologist had measured the mass from a different angle, and the cancer hadn’t grown.
Great news for the pair, but the cancer was still there. Balzer then took his next step: turning the 3D models into a 3D printed skull which showed the 3D model of the tumor behind the eye. Using 3D printing technology, he was able to do that. He showed the 3D print to the surgeons, and they found out that the tumor could be removed with an unconventional technique.
The conventional technique would be to open the skull and lift the brain out of the way, so the tumor could be removed. That is, however, a risky technique, and a patient might lose eyesight, smell, sense or taste.
Thanks to the help of a neurosurgeon, they were able to try a new kind of procedure in which they go into the brain with a micro drill through the eye socket. The physical 3D model helped the neurosurgeon to perform his work perfectly, and Scott got her tumor removed last year. What the surgeon found out was, however, frightening: the meningioma had been wrapping itself up around her optic nerves and if they hadn’t done the surgery, Scott could have become blind within six months. Thanks to 3D printing and the neurosurgeon, all she got now was a slight decrease of sight. However, one point needs to be made: 3D printing helped the team a lot, but as Scott mentions herself: “it is the skill of the talented and innovative surgeons that I credit with the removal of my tumor.”