Transplant surgeries in the UK are set to be transformed as health experts are splashing out on £250,000 3D printers to create replicas of real organs so doctors can hone in on their skills.
Although the initials outlay is pretty hefty, doctors say the scheme could save costly time and help speed up the recovery process of patients.
Health officials say that the replica organs will be practically identical to organs which are being transplanted so doctors can spot any defects they may need to take into consideration when the real operation goes ahead.
Consultant transplant surgeon Nicos Kessaris told Sky News: “This is a very clever use of technology because it allows us to effectively create scale-size replicas of the organ being transplanted and the abdomen that it’s going into.
“In a small number of cases there’s a complexity, whether it’s with the size of the organ being transplanted or with the vessels, so if there is a complexity this allows us to practise the operation in advance.”
The printing is being pioneered by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and could eventually be common practice nationwide.
Phil Reeves from Stratasys, the firm behind the technology, said: “If we can take one or two hours off each procedure, that’s a serious saving in terms of theatre time.
“It would also be hugely beneficial for patients in terms of their recovery, so there’s a huge economic argument there for the health service and the use of 3D printing.”
Dexter Clark, a three-year old from Reading, was one of the first patients to have benefitted from such procedures after his father was set to donate a kidney which turned out to be larger than average.
Dexter’s mother, Emily, told Sky News: “It’s just amazing that they were able to do this.
“If they hadn’t been able to perform the operation, Dexter would have had to go on dialysis and wait until he got bigger.”