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Surgeons turn to 3-D printing to treat a Provo baby, a Salt Lake grandmother and a St. George man

By Heather Simonsen | Posted - Apr. 21, 2017 at 8:02 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A St. George man with kidney stones, a Salt Lake grandmother with a tumor and a Provo baby with a rare heart defect all have one common bond: 3-D printing.

When Wes Nance felt pain, he ignored it at first. "I woke up most mornings with a sore back and thought I needed a new mattress, but it ended up being the kidney stones," said Nance, who lives in St. George.

His kidneys are low in his pelvis and tilted at an awkward angle. Dr. Jay Bishoff with Intermountain Healthcare turned to 3-D printing to make a model of Nance's kidneys. Bischoff also used a virtual reconstruction in the operating room.

"His kidneys were loaded with these different types of stones," Bishoff said. "What we were able to do was turn a very complex operation into a much simpler operation."

Linda Green, of Salt Lake City, wants to stay healthy for her family. When Bishoff found her tumor, there seemed to be no chance of saving her kidney. "This tumor was growing in the very business center of her kidney," Bischoff said.

A 3-D model allowed Bishoff to look at it from many different angles and practice before surgery, which was successful.

Green said, "Dr. Bishoff came in and said, 'Well, did they tell you?' And I said, 'What?' And he said, 'You still have your kidney.' I am really grateful."

Ella Knoell's heart was on the right side instead of the left. She had a hole in her heart and crisscrossed ventricular valve connections. Successful surgery was her only chance at a normal life. When Knoell was 9 months old, surgeons faced a nearly impossible task.

Her father, Jason Knoell, of Provo, said, "They're looking at it and saying, 'OK, so what am I looking at here?' I mean these are doctors that know what they're doing, and it's that complicated for them."

It was the first time ever in Utah surgeons had a 3-D model printed for a pediatric patient. Dr. Phil Burch of Primary Children's Hospital said, "This actually let us plan ahead and really not spend much time on the bypass machine."

Knoell can now grow up with her twin sister, Livi.

Three successful surgeries, thanks to 3-D printing.

Just like flight simulators for pilots, more surgeons will be using 3-D models for complex cases. Making virtual 3-D images of a patient's anatomy that they peel apart on the screen is less expensive than the 3-D printed models.

Heather Simonsen


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