Elizabeth and Scott Massey expected to learn their baby’s gender at a 21-week ultrasound. While they learned they were having a daughter, the reveal included much more than they planned for.

Multiple ultrasounds and a fetal MRI showed their baby, whom they named Charlotte, had a host of internal physical irregularities: a partially formed spine, with a missing section of the thoracic vertebrae; she only had three of the 12 ribs that protect and support the left lung, which consequently never developed to full size; her heart was incorrectly positioned on the right side of her chest; she had one central kidney and an intestinal obstruction. She also had a large skin-covered meningocele, where the membranes that cover the spine and part of the spinal cord protrude through a defect in the vertebral column.

For the Masseys, from Milan, Tennessee, the radiology images taken while Elizabeth was pregnant were hard to process and fully comprehend.

As an educational tool for the Masseys, as well as to inform care decisions among her team of doctors, the Vanderbilt Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences’ 3-D Printing Center, led by Sumit Pruthi, MD, created a 3-D model of Charlotte’s internal anatomy, specifically highlighting the spine, ribs and lungs.

“When we had a care conference with the model we were able to get a better understanding and an actual visual of what the ribs look like, especially on the right side where she has them and where they are absent on the left side,” Scott Massey said. “We could hold it and see that this is what our daughter’s anatomy looks like.”

Elizabeth Massey added, “To hear her ribs are fused together: well what does that mean? (The model) helps to give a clearer picture of her story. We were able to ask questions we might not have considered.”

The recently launched 3-D Printing Center is located on the first floor of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and serves both pediatric and adult cases.

Pruthi helped establish the center with the support of Children’s Hospital administration and of Reed Omary, MD, chair of Radiology.

The effort is also supported by Allen Newton, PhD, from the Vanderbilt Institute of Imaging Sciences, Hansen Bow, MD, from Neurosurgery, Jason Christensen, MD, from Pediatric Cardiology, and Steven Lewis, lead engineer of the program.

The 3-D Printing Center currently has three 3-D printers that have the ability to create prints, or three dimensional models, ranging in size from the width of a human hair to the length of a leg. A structured light-based 3-D scanner is also part of the equipment, and they use Materialise Mimics Innovation Suite, which is currently the only FDA medically cleared 3-D printing software. The center has produced more than 56 models since January, catering to different departments and different needs.

By Christina Echegaray | Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Image Credit: Anne Rayner

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