When Anthony Camnetar was first told he had von Hippel-Lindau syndrome at 12 years old, he did not realize the infinite health challenges he would face.
Eventually, his fight led him to University of Rochester Medical Center urologist Ahmed Ghazi, M.D., who would replicate Camnetar’s kidney, tumors and all. By having an exact replica of Camnetar’s kidney, Ghazi could practice removing the complex tumors prior to the actual surgery.
When it came time to remove the five tumors on Camnetar’s left kidney, Camnetar wanted to discuss a possibility of having his procedure done robotically.
“Robotic surgery is the preferred method for performing a partial nephrectomy,” said Ghazi. “It leads to less pain and faster post-operative recovery. Now that is the gold standard for one, maybe two tumors in the kidneys, but for five it is nearly impossible.”
Instead of honing in on just robotics, Ghazi had another idea. He decided to partner with Jonathon Stone, M.D., resident in the URMC Department of Neurosurgery, who developed a system of constructing lifelike artificial organs, allowing surgeons to practice complex surgeries in advanced.
The organ printing process collects images from an MRI, CT or ultrasound scans that go into a computer-assisted design (CAD). The CADs of organs are converted into molds from a 3D printer.
By changing the concentration of the hydrogel, researchers can add dense tumor masses and blood vessels. Additionally, artificial blood vessels are connected to bags of red dye to mimic bleeding from a cut.
“These rehearsals allow you to save operating time, decrease blood loss, potentially avoid complications, and prevent time you have to trouble shoot,” said Ghazi. “All of this directly impact patient outcomes.”