3D printing changes the game for surgery on fetuses with spinal defect

Daybreak

(WYTV) – We can use imaging and genetic testing today to find birth defects in developing babies. Combine those techniques with 3D printing and amazing things happen.

As Jocelyn and Jared Rodriguez prepared to welcome their first child, imaging revealed their baby had spina bifida, a serious spinal defect.

Surgeons can correct it in the womb. Using 3D printing with ultrasound images, they fashioned a true-to-life model of the spine they were going to correct.

“They can see through to see where the nerves propagate, through the defect, so that they know where to make an incision and where to stay away from nerves,” said Jack Stubbs, with Digital Anatomy Simulations.

These precise details help surgeons learn more about the developing baby’s condition and prepare for surgery, reducing the amount of time the fetus is exposed.

The models also help explain the procedure to mom and dad.

Surgeons are seeing successful results from this in-utero procedure for spina bifida. Some of the first small patients are now learning to walk on their own — something that spina bifida would not allow.

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