3D printed body parts to help trauma surgeons

Richard Arm, of Nottingham Trent University Image copyright NTU
Image caption Richard Arm, of Nottingham Trent University's School of Art & Design, had been working on printed organs

Life-like body parts have been 3D printed to help army surgeons deal with trauma injuries.

Based on CT scans, the organs are fitted into a realistic synthetic "body" and connected to pumps which mimic human breathing and blood flow.

Nottingham Trent University, with the NHS and Ministry of Defence, used silicone gels to replicate the feel of human tissue.

Bespoke models could now be created to prepare for individual operations.

Richard Arm, of Nottingham Trent University's School of Art & Design, said he was asked to come up with a heart model for a surgeon who wanted to practice performing an implant.

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Media caption'Human' organs made by 3D printer

He said: "When making more organs, the trickiest part was the flexibility.

"The heart has 17 different 'hardnesses' so 'does it feel right?' turns out to be a bit vague.

"Then we put them together and I knew we were getting it right when I started to feel sick."

The prototype - officially known as a thoracic trauma trainer - will be exhibited to trauma treatment experts.

Image copyright NTU
Image caption The army said it wanted a training device which was portable, robust and realistic

After feedback, two models are due to be produced for the MoD by December 2017.

Colonel Peter Mahoney, emeritus professor at Defence Medical Services, said the requirement was for training equipment that was portable, robust and reusable, while "also achieving a realism" that had only previously been possible with dead bodies.

Image copyright NTU
Image caption A realistic-looking fake heart

He added: "We wanted to start with the chest, because it is a common area connected with trauma, but if it could be created with realistically-moving lungs and blood vessels then any other body parts would be possible."

Future developments could include the brain, eyes, stomach, pancreas, liver and kidneys, the vascular system in a person's legs and bespoke models for patient-specific preoperative surgical planning.

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