A high school student presenting with a complex tumor that had spread throughout the sinuses and deep into the skull stumped surgeons at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The problem was that even visualizing the tumor and whether it was operable couldn’t be done with tradition approaches. In order to assess whether minimally invasive surgery could access all of the tumor, the surgeons took the opportunity to print a 3D model of a part of the patient’s head on which they could test what is and is not possible.
Printed using the commonly used polylactic acid, the model allowed surgeons to plan the operation so as to avoid damaging nearby nerves and to minimize blood loss. They succeeded in extracting the two tumor sites, which they later compared with the 3D model and demonstrated that the two matched almost exactly.