The help of U of M doctors was recently elicited by a couple who were trying desperately to save their son’s life. The baby has a rare breathing disorder in which he quit breathing as many as five time per day and he was still unable to go home at 16-months of age. Doctors were able to come through for the couple by performing a life-saving surgery using a splint that they made from a 3D printer.
Garrett Peterson suffers from the rare disorder of tetralogy if Fallot. Because of this, the bronchi tube had softened by the added pressure and would not stay open. Basically, his bronchi would collapse on a regular basis. It did not take much to trigger, as something as simple as holding him or changing his diaper would cause him to turn blue. He has been hospitalized since he was born and needs to use a ventilator.
As the family began running out of options, they read about an instance in which U of M doctors performed a life-saving surgery on another baby. They reached out to the doctors and after months of careful consideration, Garrett faced another serious health issue in December of 2013. His gut shut down and he spent a month in intensive care. At that point, his parents felt that they had no choice but to go forward with the surgery.
Information was published by the University of Michigan Health System of March 17 that details how the U of M doctors were able to perform a life-saving surgery on Garrett’s bronchi using a 3D printed device. They made it possible for the baby to breathe easier and move or be disrupted without turning blue.
Glenn Green. M.D. is the associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology and Scott Hillsdale, Ph.D. is a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, as well as an associate professor of surgery at U of M. The two paired up to make the live-saving surgery a reality.
Hollister was able to create a 3D model of Garrett’s bronchi using computer-aided design. He produced a splint using computer images. The device consisted of small white pipes that were designed to fit around the bronchi for additional support.
The difficult task of sewing the splints around the baby’s bronchi to offer it better support and prevent it from collapsing was led by Dr. Richard G. Ohye at C.S. Mott Hospital. Dr. Green assisted him in the performing the life-saving surgery. After the splints were put in place as a “protective shell,” his air-pipe stayed open and his formerly white lung turned to a healthy pink.
Garrett’s mother, Natalie Peterson, reports that since the day of the surgery, her son has been happy and “it’s crazy to be able to see him get really upset and not change colors.” The Utah family is planning to take the now 18-month-old home for the first time.
The 3D printer has only been used once before to save a baby’s life. Hillsdale said it is a “tremendous feeling” to help another baby using the device. He also explained that the 3D printed splint is flexible enough to expand as Garrett grows and in the two to three years that it will take to dissolve in his body, he will have grown strong enough to survive without it. Green hopes to start a study which may make 3D printing devices more accessible for babies who need the live-saving surgery.
By Tracy Rose