Doctors at the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona, Spain were tasked with removing an inoperable tumor from a 5-year-old boy named Marc. He suffered from neuroblastoma, a fairly common childhood cancer. Doctors were successful at controlling the disease with treatment, but there was still a large tumor left in his stomach, one that was inoperable.
“We tried twice but failed surgery because we could not access [the tumor],” said lead surgeon Jaume Mora.
The issue Mora and his team were having was that the tumor was surrounded by so many blood vessels and arteries, that there was no safe way of performing the surgery successfully. To ensure they wouldn't make any mistakes, the surgeons 3D-printed replicas of the tumor and the surrounded vessels and arteries.
“This way we could do a trial before [operating on] the child,” said Kravel Lucas, one of the surgeons. “These techniques had been used in the event of bones or jaws, but never before in other types of body parts with soft tissue.”
The surgeons took 10 days to practice on the replicas to ensure the actual surgery would be successful. The replicas included hard material for the blood vessels, arteries, and all areas that were to go unharmed. The tumor was printed using softer, translucent resin. The surgeons needed to remove the 3D-printed tumor without harming any of the other parts.
Thanks to the practice, the surgeons were able to successfully remove Marc's tumor, and he is expected to make a full recovery without any further surgeries.