State of the art 3D printer for Children's Orthopaedic Service

Medical technology moves incredibly quickly, and as a charity we strive to make sure the best innovations can be available to our talented clinical teams, in order to help our patients.

In 2017, Oxford Hospitals Charity provided funding to the Oxford Children's Orthopaedic Service to purchase a 3D printer, which has software to produce models of bones.

This technology can now be used pre-operatively for children having orthopaedic surgery. Oxford is one of the first medical centres to use it for this purpose.

Mrs Rachel Buckingham, Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon, explains:

"Currently if a child has, for example, a problem where their hip is causing pain and stiffness, an X-ray may not give us a clear enough picture of the problem.

"But using 3D images from a CT scan, together with this new equipment, allows the images to be printed as a three-dimensional plastic model. This means that the bones and joints can be examined dynamically, in different positions, rather than just the position when the CT scan was taken.

"It also helps us to plan surgery and experiment with different options, offering the potential to practise the operation on the plastic model and see what the best form of correction would be - all prior to surgery."

The funding was awarded in 2017 and the equipment is now being used to help young patients having surgery at the hospital. The first operation was on a teenager who had a deformity of the wrist after a growth arrest, and Mrs Buckingham's team used a 3D model to plan the surgery.

She explains: "We actually printed out two models of her wrist and then trialled different ways to see what would be the best technique to correct the deformity. By experimenting in this way we were able to be confident that we had the right approach in the actual operation, which meant the operation went more quickly and we got the best possible outcome."

The team has also used the printer to create models of a pelvis to plan surgery for a young patient with benign bone tumours on her hip.

Mrs Buckingham said: "It's been really valuable to us in preparing for these complex cases, and we know that it will make a big difference to the team and our patients making some very difficult operations much easier.

"We are thrilled to be at the forefront of this technology, and very grateful to the charity for this support to help treat children in our care."