A three-year-old girl from Northern Ireland has become the first to have a life-saving adult kidney transplant, using 3D printing.
At four months old, Lucy Boucher suffered heart failure which starved her kidneys of oxygen.
She was told she would need to have kidney dialysis for life, until surgeons at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Great Ormond Street Hospital performed the transplant.
The idea to use 3D printing to help with the surgery came from Pankaj Chandak, a transplant registrar at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital. The hospital had purchased a 3D printer only a few months before, thanks to a grant from Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity.
The printed models helped surgeons at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital plan how to put an adult-sized kidney into the body of a toddler.
Lucy suffered heart failure at four weeks old. Her kidneys subsequently failed after being starved of oxygen.
She was put on kidney dialysis until she was old enough to go through with a transplant.
The printer was acquired specifically for the purpose of assisting with transplant surgeries, particularly complicated adult-to-child transplants, and the parents of Lucy (Chris and Lucy Boucher) were the first to benefit.
Detailed models of the Chris’ kidney and Lucy’s abdomen were 3D printed from images taken from their CT and MRI scans.
“When I first saw the models I was taken aback by the level of detail that’s in them,” said Chris Boucher. “It really helped me get an idea in my head of what was going to happen. My first reaction when I saw the 3D printout of my kidney was surprise at how big it was and I wondered how it could possibly fit into Lucy. Seeing the model of her abdomen and the way the kidney was going to be transplanted inside her gave me a clear understanding of exactly what was going to happen. It helped ease my concerns and it was hugely reassuring to know that the surgeons could carry out such detailed planning ahead of the operation.”
Lucy and her father are both recovering nicely, and next year she will begin attending nursery as a healthy, active child.
She had been receiving dialysis treatments three times per week, but those are a thing of the past now.
She can spend the time she would have been in treatment doing much more fun things, like playing with her five-year-old brother Daniel.
“Considering all the potential complications it’s fantastic that everything has gone so well – it’s a massive relief,” said Ciara Boucher, Lucy’s mother. “The transplant is life-changing for Lucy.”