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3D Printers Create Exact Models to Help Orthopedic Surgeons

Kevin Y.

No two ways about it -- 3D printers are allowing doctors at Children's Mercy to give "model" care to patients. Kevin Yintia is one young Kansas Citian who's benefiting.

Walking, let alone running, has always been difficult for Kevin.

"It hurt alot... I cannot even do nothing," the 10-year-old said.

Kevin's hip was severely damaged by infection when he was a baby in Central African Republic.

"This should normally be nice and round," said Dr. Richard Schwend, an orthopedic surgeon, as he pointed to a model.

It isn't just any model. It's an exact model of Kevin's pelvis and hips that helped Dr. Schwend operate on him.

Call it a "blue light special" of the most sophisticated kind. At Children's Mercy, many models of patients' body parts are created on 3D printers.

Dr. Neil Mardis, a radiologist, started this print shop a year ago and now has several shelves full of models. They include a spine with scoliosis that surgeons referred to during an operation.

"They're able to take this model in the O.R., flip it around and look at it from different angles," Dr. Mardis said.

It's something they can't do with the real thing. Printing a 3D model starts with a standard CT or MRI image that's converted to a 3D image.

"(We) put it into a program that converts the radiology file type into a file type that the 3D printer can understand. We have multiple materials we can print from, so depending on the request and what their plan is for the model, we can switch the materials to things that are softer, harder," Dr. Mardis said.

The printers can create bone, vessel or organ models so the surgeon can practice before surgery -- making a cut or putting in screws and plates.

With hip fusion surgery, what Kevin had, the surgeon typically has to bend a plate to fit the hip during the operation.

"Patients just lying there and you're spending a lot of time working on this plate, so we thought it was much better to do this ahead of time," Dr. Schwend said.

In Kevin's case, Dr. Schwend bent a plate to fit the 3D printer model. Then, before surgery, he bent Kevin's plate to match that plate.

"That was a great idea," Kevin said.

He will be off his feet for another month while his hip heals. He's rarin' to go .

"And ready to play basketball!" he said.

He can thank the team at Children's Mercy that included a 3D printer.


Read the full story and see the video via FOX 4.

Learn more about the Orthopedic Surgery program at Children's Mercy.