Aneurysms, which are tiny blood-filled bulges in the wall of a blood vessel, are responsible for nearly 500,000 deaths a year worldwide when they burst before being treated.
Part of the problem in treating them, particularly brain aneurysms, is that they're located among a complex maze of vessels that can be difficult to navigate even with the most modern technology.
With that in mind, physicians and researchers in Buffalo have worked with 3D printer maker Stratasys to develop a method of printing out a patient's complete vascular system in just 24 hours in order to practice navigating it prior to actual surgery.
Stratasys A 3D printed model of a patient's vasculature. The black line is a catheter being inserted by a surgeon in a pre-operative practice.
Teresa Flint, a 47-year-old mother of three, was among the first patients helped through the use of a 3D printed model of her vascular system and brain aneurism. Flint had a potentially fatal aneurysm that would typically be treated with metallic basket delivered into the brain through a tiny tube.
"We took the image of the aneurysm based on her scans to generate an exact replica of the entire brain vessel anatomy. The Stratasys 3D printed model enabled us to devise a much more optimal means to treat her," said Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, chief medical officer at The Jacobs Institute and a professor of neurosurgery at The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.
Treatment of aneurisms is typically high-risk, as no two are identical and they require doctors understand each patient's unique vascular anatomy.
"Our original plan was to treat her aneurysm with a metallic basket. After attempting the procedure on the 3D printed replica, we realized it just wasn't going to work," Siddiqui said. "Based on the Stratasys 3D printed model, our team was able to pre-empt potential complications and devise a much more optimal means of treating Teresa's aneurysm."
The Jacobs Institute Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, chief medical officer at The Jacobs Institute, demonstrates deploying a medical device in a 3D printed model in a research laboratory.
Vasculature models are created by first inserting a catheter into the femoral artery in a patient's groin. The catheter is then advanced through a large artery up into the brain arteries where a dye is injected. That dye highlights the arteries, and pictures are taken using an MRI or CT scan.
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