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3D Print Technology Used to Plan Successful Separation of Conjoined Twins

3D printing is now commonly used to aid the planning of both medical and dental procedures.  Patient-specific 3D printed models are used to provide doctors with an extremely detailed representation of the area intended for surgery.  This cuts surgery time dramatically which is clearly much better for both patients and surgeons.  Recently, a first was recorded when the technology was used to plan the separation of conjoined twins.

The survival rate of conjoined twins is very low, according to the University of Maryland.  Largely because of the challenges of such complex and intricate surgery, between just 5% and 25% of conjoined twins actually survive, particularly if they share organs. 

The operation

Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata were born joined at the abdomen and chest.  They shared their lungs, diaphragm, liver, intestines, colon, pelvis, pericardial sac and chest wall as illustrated by the 3D model produced.  Clearly the surgery required to separate them would be complex.   

Surgeons at Texas Children’s Hospital spent almost a year planning the surgery to separate the sisters.  A painstaking process of translating the babies’ CT scans into a color-coded 3D model was carried out using Materialise’s Mimics Innovation Suite.  Surgeons were then able to print out a 3D model outlining exactly how the twins were conjoined.

Before the 30 hours of surgery could commence, tissue expanders were implanted into the twins’ torsos in order to stretch their skin.  A team of 26 surgeons from 13 different fields of specialism worked to successfully separate the twins.

Dr Rajesh Krishnamurthy, who is Chief of Radiology Research and Cardiac Imaging at the Texas Children’s Hospital, explained how surgery time can be diminished using 3D model technology.  He said that the model provided surgeons with an insight into what they were likely to encounter during the operation.  This facility was particularly important as it enabled surgeons to decide which organ to assign to which twin.

In conclusion

Thanks to the wonders of 3D print technology, lives are being saved that would otherwise have surely been lost.

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Alison Page

About Alison Page

Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at

Alison Page

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