3D Printing Helps Surgeon Restore Child’s Sporting Ambitions and Reduce Surgery Time from 4 hours to Under 30 minutes


When anxious parents approached Mr Michael Eames, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the South Eastern Trust, to investigate and help correct their young son’s injured forearm, little did they know that 3D printing would so drastically change the course of their son’s treatment.

Having suffered a complex forearm injury as a toddler a number of years earlier, the young patient’s bones had healed in an abnormal position preventing him from rotating his arm. This restriction of movement in a young child can be very detrimental to his development, sporting ambitions and career aspirations.

According to Michael Eames, the patient’s CT scan confirmed that the bones had, as suspected, healed incorrectly leading the team down the standard line of treatment of trying to reshape the bones to gain normal rotation. However, having access to a full-scale 3D printed model of the patient’s bones changed everything.

The South Eastern Trust supplied the patient’s CT scan data to Belfast-based medical 3D printing firm, Axial3D that produces bespoke hard and soft tissue models from 2D patient scan data for public and private healthcare across a wide variety of specialisms including orthopaedics, oncology, maxillofacial, cardiac and trauma.

Michael Eames said that the 3D printed model of his patient’s forearm bones offered unprecedented insight for diagnosing his patient and ultimately changed the course of his treatment, “We approached Axial3D to have the bones printed and that was enlightening. It showed us that while the shape of the bones was grossly abnormal, it wasn’t the shape of the bones that was limiting the rotation. It was the tight structures between the bones that had scarred down that was preventing the child from rotating his arm. Having a tangible scale piece of anatomy provides huge insight into the pathology not possible on conventional CT or MRI scans.”

Access to a bespoke 3D printed model of the patient’s forearm bones changed the standard course of treatment from a 4 hour complex surgery to reshape the bones and the ensuing rehabilitation, to a much less evasive soft tissue procedure that took just under 30 minutes.

According to Daniel Crawford, Axial3D CEO, their bespoke models offer clinicians a deeper appreciation of their patient’s ailment or injury beyond what is possible with conventional 2D imaging: “Axial3D’s patient-specific anatomical models give clinicians greater insight and therefore confidence in diagnosing and treating complex cases. In some cases, our models have been used to develop and trial novel surgical techniques pushing the boundaries of surgical intervention. The adoption of 3D medical printing has the potential to revolutionise medical provision.”

To fulfil its mission to provide easy access to patient-specific tools, Axial3D recently launched an online service for clinicians to upload patient CT and MRI scans, visualise them in 3D and order precise 3D printed models in minutes. For this young patient, access to the model provided a more accurate diagnosis, less evasive procedure, faster recovery and, four weeks post op, he was discharged with 90% range of movement in his forearm and no pain.

This week Axial3D is showcasing its bespoke 3D printed orthopaedic models at the British Orthopaedic Association Congress [13-16 September at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast], an annual event that is expected to attract over 1,000 orthopaedic surgeons to the city.

Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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