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Surgeons use 3-D printing to save a baby's life

Surgeons use 3-D printing to save a baby's life
photo courtesy of shutterstock

I've told you about some of the medical breakthroughs with 3-D printing before. There's the incredible prosthetic arm, the revolutionary 3-D printed cast and researchers have even been able to print 3-D human blood vessels.

If you haven't heard about it by now, 3-D printing is a great new technology that actually prints items in 3 dimensions, rather than just words or pictures on a page like traditional printers.

But the next 3-D printing technology doesn't just replace a body part. Now surgeons have printed a 3-D brain that actually saved an infant's life.

So here's the situation. Little Gabriel Mandeville was born with congenital defect in his brain that causes constant seizures. But these are not even regular seizures. The first one, right after he was born, nearly took his life, and the ones he's had since then - well, they have a devastating effect on his life.

The seizures are called "mind erasers" because every time Gabriel experiences one, he literally forgets everything he's learned. Gabriel's parents were warned that one day he could even forget their faces.

And despite the best efforts of Gabriel's doctors at Boston Children's Hospital, the seizures continued to ravage his little brain. "He was missing huge milestones in his childhood," said Erin Mandeville, Gabriel's mother.

So his doctors recommended a drastic surgery on the baby's brain. Called a hemispherectomy, it is a complicated surgery that disconnects the healthy side of the brain from the damaged side of the brain that is causing the seizures.

This procedure, which basically separates the brain into two parts, should stop the seizures. But Gabriel faced incredible risks as surgeons worked on his delicate brain inside his tiny head.

Next page: Find out how 3-D helped doctors save Gabriel's life. 
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