3D printing of patient’s anatomy aids in surgical planning

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Michael Slag, surgery patient: The black area is the tumor. The white area are the ribs surrounding the tumor.

Narrator: Michael Slag is in awe of a tumor. Well, a 3D printed model of the tumor that was growing at the top of his right lung. A Mayo Clinic surgeon removed it in a minimally invasive operation. And just three days later, he’s going home.

Mr. Slag: Well, it’s unbelievable. In fact, I was walking the first night after surgery.

Narrator: Unbelievable because of how this 3D model spared him from what surely would have been a much more invasive operation, with a far longer and more painful recovery.

Mr. Slag: But I’m sure if my chest would have been split open, I probably would have been in an ICU and probably a whole lot different experience.

Jane Matsumoto, M.D., Radiologist, Mayo Clinic: This tumor, it’s sitting right by the brachial plexus.

Narrator: The growth was a type of lung cancer called a Pancoast tumor, so rare that Mayo Clinic has only seen 60 cases in the past 20 years.

Shanda Blackmon, M.D., Thoracic Surgeon, Mayo Clinic: We frequently may have a plastic surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, a vascular surgeon, and myself all involved in a Pancoast tumor resection. And when that’s the case, there’s nothing better than having a model for the whole team to meet around and plan the case.

Narrator: Thoracic surgeon Shanda Blackmon says the 3D model helped eliminate surprises by showing the team exactly how Michael’s large tumor was wrapped around several critical nerves and blood vessels.

Dr. Blackmon: Clearly, everyone’s tumor is different, and it’s always in a different location.

Narrator: It took about 70 hours for a high tech 3D printer to create the model…

Dr. Matsumoto: … of the brachial plexus.

Narrator: But radiologists put in many hours before that, incorporating MRI images, CT scans, and sophisticated computer software to first create a virtual model of Michael’s anatomy.

Dr. Matsumoto: Those are the nerve roots coming out of the cervical spine…

Narrator: …color coded for each specific tissue type.

Dr. Matsumoto: There you can see the veins, the aorta, pulmonary artery, and then the brachial plexus and the tumor up there.

Narrator: Radiologist Jane Matsumoto is co-director of Mayo Clinic’s 3D anatomic modeling lab.

Dr. Matsumoto: The radiology department is made up of like 170 people who all have some specialty areas of expertise in bone, in lung, in nerves. You know, we’re able to draw all those people in one area to work together to create this.

Narrator: It’s a technology surgeons are using for complex cases in orthopedics, heart and vascular repair, pediatrics, and other specialties. Besides a quicker recovery, the less invasive approach, requiring less cutting, reassured Michael for another reason. You see, he is also Dr. Slag, an endocrinologist who performs some delicate medical procedures of his own.

Mr. Slag: This lighter gray area is the brachial plexus, a complex set of nerves that run the arm. Knowing that I was more likely to come out with a hand that worked compared to an arm that wasn’t going to do very much was just a big load off my mind.

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