At Northwell, redefining the shape of things to come

New dimensions: Northwell Health's 3D Design and Innovation Center has beefed up its pre-surgical modeling chops, with the help of a Massachusetts-based technology innovator.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A powerful new 3D printing system is providing Northwell Health doctors hyper-realistic surgical models, easing patients minds and saving millions of dollars in lost operating-room time.

That’s the assessment from the New Hyde Park-based health system, which this week noted it has “doubled down” on 3D printing technologies provided by Massachusetts-based developer and manufacturer Formlabs.

Specifically, Northwell Health already a Formlabs customer has incorporated the tech firm’s powerful Form Cell printing system into the health system’s 3D Design and Innovation Center, with an eye toward increasing production of patient-specific anatomical models.

Those models serve as “surgical guides,” according to Northwell Health, providing surgeons with effective preparation tools and “offering a hands-on opportunity to get a feel for patient anatomy and pre-fit equipment before entering the operating room.”

The benefits of pre-surgical 3D modeling were evident in the recent case of Isaiah Goberdhan, a 7-year-old with an aggressive tumor in his palate, blocking his nasal cavity and hampering his breathing. Surgery was required to remove the tumor – but before the child went under the knife, Northwell physicians used Formlabs technology to create a 3D-printed model of his palate.

The surgical model gave Isaiah’s doctors a running start – and also helped calm the nerves of the boy’s anxious parents.

“Having a 3D-printed depiction of my son was really helpful when talking with the doctor about his surgery,” noted Barnaby Goberdhan, Isaiah’s father. “The doctor was able to do more than talk me through what they were going to do.

“There is almost nothing more frightening and stressful than having your child go through surgery,” the father added. “I wanted all of my questions answered so I could be less fearful and more prepared to talk my son through what he was about to face.

“With the 3D model, we both felt more at ease.”

Todd Goldstein: Surgical precision.

Neha Patel, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, worked with Todd Goldstein, a researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and director of Northwell Health’s 3D Design and Innovation Center, to develop the 3D model of Isaiah’s palate, based on traditional CT and MRI scans.

With the help of the state-of-the-art Formlabs tech, Goldstein was able to create two personalized 3D renderings of Isaiah’s mouth and nasal cavity – one with the tumor in place, one with the tumor removed.

Patel noted that she worked on Isaiah’s case with a multidisciplinary team including specialists in neuroradiology, head and neck surgeries and prosthodontics – but “it wasn’t until we worked with Dr. Goldstein’s team that we were able to … really bring Isaiah’s family into the shared decision-making process.”

“I wanted to be able to visualize where the tumor was and to determine whether we could preserve key structures in the area,” Patel said in a statement. “The palate and nasal cavity is a delicate area … precision is key and the 3D-printed model helped us get very accurate.”

In addition to serving as a key preparation tool, Form Cell – which works fast, allowing Northwell Health providers to scale-up production of anatomical models and create new pre-surgical options for a wider range of patients – should serve to reduce the length and costs of various procedures.

A study based on Northwell Health data shows the use of 3D-printed models can reduce time in the operating room by at least 10 percent – factoring out over four years to some $7 million in savings from reduced operating-room time, according to the health system.


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