Surgeons Used 3D-Printing to Help Plan Rare Spinal Cord Surgery
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. March 04, 2019: A 35-year-old woman has been saved from becoming paralyzed, following swift diagnosis from Healthpoint and a complex tumor removal surgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, both part of Mubadala’s network of healthcare providers.
F.K was diagnosed with cervical schwannoma, a slow growing tumor in the lining of the nerves in the spine, which can cause progressive weakness and tingling sensations as it grows and presses on the spinal cord.
“Without surgery, F.K would have been paralyzed from the neck down, however, surgery to remove it risked a similar outcome. Given the complexity, we worked with our colleagues at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Neurological Institute to give her the best chance at recovery,” says Dr. Jongdae Park, Specialist General Surgery at Healthpoint’s Wooridul Spine Centre.
To prepare for the surgery, the medical team took detailed scans to produce a 3D-printed model of the part of her spine affected by the tumor. This model enabled the surgeons to plan how they could remove the tumor without damaging any nerves during surgery.
“When the doctors told me I had a tumor, I didn’t want to believe them – I couldn’t accept that my future was in a wheelchair. I was referred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for surgery and they reassured me that they had the experience and technology to help me and remove the tumor safely,” said F.K.
3D printing technology enables the team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi to create highly accurate models that surgeons can use to prepare for each patient’s unique anatomy. CT images are converted into a digital model and a 3D printer uses that information to carefully arrange layers of material into a physical model.
“Printing a comprehensive 3D model requires extremely accurate imaging and complex computer modeling to build a medically accurate 3D rendering that can be printed. Our imaging institute works closely with researchers at New York University Abu Dhabi to build that rendering,” says Dr. Andrew Rivard, a radiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
“This was an extremely complex surgery with a high risk that, in removing this giant tumor, the patient’s nerves could be damaged. The 3D model enabled us to become familiar with precisely where the tumor was and how we could remove it. I compare the planning to a Formula One driver learning a track: the more familiar you become, the better you can drive,” explained Dr. Ramón Navarro, a neurosurgeon at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi who led the surgery.
During the surgery, the team used intraoperative monitoring, an advanced technology to monitor the patient’s sensation and motor functions in her limbs. This technique meant the surgeons were able to see how their actions affected her nerves, so they could avoid causing any permanent damage.
“The constant and immediate feedback was vital to make sure that as we removed the tumor, F.K’s nerves remained intact. Happily, the surgery was a complete success. We were able to remove the entire tumor and F.K has made a full recovery and is no longer at risk of paralysis,” says Dr. Navarro.
F.K was discharged from the hospital two weeks after her surgery. After a short recovery period, she has resumed her normal activities and the strength and sensation in her limbs has returned.
“I was so scared and worried when I was diagnosed and now I am so grateful to my doctors. Since the surgery, I am back to normal and able to make plans for the future,” says F.K.
The Neurological Institute is a leader in treating the most common, and highly complex, neurological disorders, and is one of the Centers of Excellence at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. The Institute offers advanced diagnostics, surgery, treatment and rehabilitation for disorders affecting the central nervous system, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and complex spine surgery. It is the official Stroke Center for Abu Dhabi city, and is the first in the Middle East to offer 24/7 epilepsy monitoring.