In a series of world firsts, doctors have successfully transplanted a kidney from an adult donor into a child with the aid of 3D printing. And the family of the 2-year-old kidney recipient, Lucy Boucher, couldn’t be happier about the results.
Suffering from heart failure when she was just a few weeks old, Lucy’s kidneys also began to fail due to lack of sufficient oxygen flow. This meant that even as a little baby, Lucy had to endure kidney dialysis three times every week. She may have had to undergo this treatment for the rest of her life, were it not for the kidney organ transplant. And lucky for Lucy, her father, Chris Boucher, was a most willing organ match.
Finding a suitable match represents a significant hurdle for organ transplants. However, in the case of Lucy, doctors also had to figure out how to transplant an adult-sized kidney into a child-size abdomen. This particular transplant procedure had never been done before, and doctors wanted to minimize as much risks as possible.
To help guide the difficult transplant, doctors turned to 3-dimensional printing, an innovative technique that’s rapidly gaining popularity in the biomedical arena. Using measurements gathered from in-depth computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the 3D printer went to work to create life-size plastic models of Chris’ donor kidney and Lucy’s internal abdomen.
The plastic 3D printed models served as crucial practice before the real operation. Being true to size and density, it allowed doctors to plan every incision, vessel connection, as well as best the positioning of the organ. Transplant surgeon Dr. Pankaj Chandak said the models gave an “additional layer of safety” to this highly complicated and intricate operation.
And the practice paid off with the best outcome for Lucy, who is now thriving more than ever with the transplanted kidney.
We found it amazing that we could see these incredibly detailed models of Chris' kidney and Lucy's abdomen. Considering all the potential complications, it's fantastic that everything has gone so well. It's a massive relief. The transplant is life changing for Lucy. – Ciara Boucher, Lucy’s mother.
This is the first instance where 3D printing was used to support a kidney transplant from an adult donor to a child recipient. The success of this extra step may encourage doctors to utilize more 3D printed models in prepping for future medical operations as an added level of safety precaution.