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First time use of 3D printing model for cervical spine surgery

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Dubai: In a first of its kind use of 3D printing technology, the RAK Hospital conducted a cervical spine surgery on February 2, on a young Jordanian expatriate who had a disc rupture.

Amineh Hassan Issa, 37, had been suffering from intense neck and arm pain for over six weeks despite several consultations with physicians and using multiple analgesics to relieve the pain. She had also developed weakness in the left hand — an obvious sign of serious cervical spine-related issue. A clinical and radiological assessment revealed that she was suffering from cervical radiculopathy — due to a ruptured disc, compressing the nerves in her neck, causing inflammation.

Dr Tinku Kurisinkar, consultant neurosurgeon at the hospital, decided to create a 3D replica of the patient’s spine.

“Because this was a very delicate procedure, we decided to use the 3D model for superior accuracy. Pre-operatively, we sent the patient’s CT and MRI scan data to a 3D print lab — 3D Creations — in Abu Dhabi. The lab printed a patient-specific anatomical model that reflected the existing condition of the neck, aiding with the exact placement and size of the cage and screws for the surgery,” explained Dr Kurisinkal.

In the cervical spine surgical case, 3D printing not only provides exact anatomical details before the surgery, it also helps in planning the trajectory and size of screws and cages while aiding in their intra-operative placement. This in turn, ensures a superior accuracy, increases patient safety and better clinical outcome. Moreover, it reduces operation time, blood loss and radiation exposure for the patient and the surgical team. It is also useful in medical and surgical education and is particularly beneficial for complex pathologies of the spine.

“Correlating with the model in operation theatre, we performed the surgery, removing the [ruptured] disc from between the vertebras, widening the foramen (hole in the bone) and placing the zero-profile cage (an implant) in place of the damaged disc, securing it with titanium screws at the top and bottom. In all it took us around two hours to complete the surgery,” added Dr Kurisinkal.

Amineh, who is a homemaker and mother of two children, was overjoyed with the quick recovery and was able to go home on the fourth day on February 6. She told Gulf News: “I feel much better and stress-free. With the excruciating pain in the neck and the weakness in my left hand, I couldn’t do any work at home. Now I am able to drive my car and sleep well, two things I hadn’t been able to do in weeks.”

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