In October 2017, history was made at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi. Doctors at the country’s premier medical college and hospital separated a pair of 28-month-old craniopagus (joined at the head) twins, Jaganath and Balram, from Odisha, after a two-stage, 48-hour marathon surgery. Deepak Kumar Gupta, paediatric neurosurgeon who led the team along with well-known neurosurgeon AK Mahapatra, is clinical in his summing up. He says, “So far, only six cases of conjoined twins have been reported in India. This is the first time we could save both the children.”
The procedure once again put the spotlight on additive manufacturing, popularly known as 3D printing. Ahead of the surgery, Gupta developed a 3D-printed model of the twins’ skull, complete with its entire vessel and brain architecture. “By practising on 3D-printed models, risks are minimised for a patient. We can do such complex operations in India now, and no longer have to send children abroad for neurosurgical operations,” says Gupta, who conducted mock trials with several skull types, including those made by Osteo3D, a Bengaluru-based start-up.
Gupta has been simulating with 3D-printed skulls for the past four years, especially before he operates on children with malformed heads. “With these models, you can precisely understand which parts have to be operated upon, and where to create incisions,” he says.
3D-printed models are not useful for simulations alone. Earlier in 2017, Medanta Bone and Joint Institute’s chairman and chief surgeon Sanjiv Kumar Singh Marya and senior surgeon V Anand Naik implanted a 3D-printed titanium