Man saves wife's eyesight by 3D printing her brain tumour
When psychotherapist Pamela Shavaun Scott developed a brain tumour behind her left eye, the doctors weren't too concerned.
She and her husband Michael Balzer were terrified. Scott had already had her thyroid removed and the three-centimetre mass was giving her headaches and starting to affect her vision.
They were told - according to MAKE Magazine - to sit tight and have a follow up MRI scan in a year. Neither Scott nor Balzer were prepared to wait that long, so they took things into their own hands.
The pair collected all the scan results and sought out second opinions. The consensus was that Scott should have surgery.
Balzer decided to draw on his professional skills in creating 3D graphics to start working on building up an accurate computer model of his wife's skull and tumour based on all of the medical images that had been taken.
It was this dedication that eventually helped to save his wife's eyesight.This 3D model of Pamela Shavaun Scott's skull and brain tumour helped surgeons save her eyesight
When a follow-up scan appeared to show that the tumour was growing at a much quicker rate than expected - indicating a much more aggressive cancer, Balzer was able to quickly cross reference the images to discover that it was a misdiagnosis.
The cancer hadn't actually grown - the radiologist had simply measured the mass from a different angle.
The next step was to take the 3D computer models and turn them into a physical object - a 3D printed skull complete with a 3D model of the tumour behind the eye.
This model helped surgeons realise that they could use an unconventional technique to remove the mass.
The standard process is to saw open the skull and physically lift the brain out of the way to remove the tumour - called a meningioma.The technique is risky because nerves can get dislodged, leading the patient to lose their eyesight, sense of smell or taste. Both Balzer and Scott wanted the least invasive procedure possible.
Balzer found a neurosurgeon willing to try a new type of procedure which involves going into the brain through the eye socket, using a micro drill. Balzer sent a 3D-printed skull model to the Pittsburgh-based surgeon to help him plan the procedure.
Scott's tumour was removed in May 2014. The surgeon found that cancer had started to wrap itself around her optic nerves and that she might have gone blind within six months had it gone untreated.
95% of the cancer was removed and she was left with minimal visible scarring.