3D Printing has been used to create everything from Car to Prosthetics. It is nice to see that people are using 3D printing to solve problems in a creative way. 3D printing can give people autonomy over their healthcare.
When Michael Balzer's wife, Pamela Scott was diagnosed with a brain tumor behind her left eye, they were terrified. Pamela Scott had already had her thyroid removed and the three-centimeter tumor was giving her headaches and starting to affect her vision. But the doctors seemed unconcerned and suggested to have a follow up MRI scan in a year. Therefore realizing the need to act quickly, Balzer collected scan results and started consulting neurologists. They were suggested to go for surgery. Balzer decided to use his skills in creating 3D graphics to create a computer model of his wife's cranium and the tumor based on the scan results. A few months later, Scott had another MRI, and the radiologist said that the tumor had grown substantially. Balzer used Photoshop to layer the new DICOM (digital format for medical imaging data) files on top of the old images, and realized that the tumor hadn't grown at all. The radiologist had just measured it from a different point on the image.
Balzer downloaded a free software program called InVesalius, developed by a research center in Brazil to convert MRI and CT scan data to 3D images. He used it to create a 3D volume rendering from Scott's DICOM images, which allowed him to look at the tumor from any angle. Balzer had adapted the volume renderings for 3D printing and produced a few full-size models of the front section of Scott's skull on his MakerBot. Balzer then sent a 3D-printed skull model to the Pittsburgh-based surgeon, who used it to plan a far less invasive and less risky surgery that involved accessing the tumour through her eyelid. The tumor was removed in May 2014. Had she waited some more months, her vision would have been damaged permanently. Balzer saved his wife's eyesight by 3D printing her brain tumor.
"What you can now do through 3D printing is like what you're able to do in the software world: Rapid iteration, fail fast, get something to market quickly.You can print the prototypes, and then you can print out model organs on which to test the products. You can potentially obviate the need for some animal studies, and you can do this proof of concept before extensive patient trials are conducted." - Dr. Michael Patton, CEO, Medical Innovation Labs
Balzer now has unknowingly become a medical pioneer. He will inspire many people to take control of their own healthcare. Many surgeons will now use 3D printing to plan medical procedures and to explain the medical procedures to the patients. Using basic maker tools and software, we can ensure that we are receiving proper healthcare.