Nationwide Children's using 3D printing to make organs


Twelve-year-old Michael Conley of Waverly suffered from debilitating headaches as a child.

His parents gave him over-the-counter pain relievers to help.

But one night in October one his headaches were so bad he began to have a seizure.

His parents rushed him to the hospital and a scan of his brain revealed this more than a migraine.

Michael had a tumor and it was very close to the fibers that allowed him to see.

His parents, Michael and Jessica, took him to Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Inside the neurology department, they were shown something they'd never seen before

It was a 3D printed replica of their son's brain.

"When I showed Michael's, family, they were amazed how big it is and how close it is the visual fibers," says Dr. Satya Gedela a pediatric neurologist.

To cut the tumor out, surgeons relied on a 3D model of Michaels' brain. The printer makes tiny drops of FDA approved plastic resin. They are 30,000th of a millimeter.

It would give his surgeons a clear roadmap into how to avoid damaging other parts of Michaels' brain especially because the tumor was millimeters from the fibers that allow him to see.

According to Dr. Gedela, the tumor called, Ependymomas, is rare when compared to all the tumors but is the third most common brain tumor.

In adults, it is commonly seen in the spine, but in children, it is commonly seen in the back part of the brain. Around 185 children are diagnosed each year with this type of tumor. Before 3d printing, doctors relied on two-dimensional x-rays to better understand where they needed to cut.

"Even with MRI scan we can not see as good, says Dr. Gedela.

With 3D printing, surgeons can see more.

"Maybe in the future, this will help in the surgically planning in the operating room," says Dr. Gedela.

As much promise as this new tool holds for surgeons, and for parents, looking to better understand what's happening to their child, there are issues.

"It's cumbersome, it's expensive. Would insurance pay for it? That's the final question am I right?," says Dr. Gedela.

It's not covered by insurance, but because Children's believes in the 3d printing capability, they've decided not to pass along the cost to families.

As for Michael Conley, his surgery was a success. In March he underwent 7 hours of surgery to remove the slow-growing tumor.

No more headaches, no seizures.

Thanks in large part to a 3D printer that allowed his surgeons to see inside the brain of a 12-year-old like never before.