"I was packing for a business trip and suddenly felt like someone hit me with a crowbar."
"I felt as if I had to hold my head together because it was going to split open."
"My head felt like it was in a vice, I was constantly sick, and I could not move my neck."
The above are descriptions from three patients who suffered a cerebral aneurysm, which are also known as intracranial or intracerebral aneurysms. They're a weak or thin spot on a blood vessel in the brain which has ballooned and fills with blood, and this bulging can put pressure on a nerve or surrounding brain tissue. It's possible for cerebral aneurysms to occur anywhere in the brain, but most of them happen along a loop of arteries which run between the underside of the brain and the base of the skull.
Every year, some 10 in every 100,000 persons, and 30,000 individuals in the U.S. alone, suffer the debilitating effects of the condition, and most cerebral aneurysms fail to show symptoms until they're very large, or in the worst case scenario, they burst.
Now a team at Arizona State University is using 3D printing to make anatomically correct core blood vessel models which allow them to create exact replicas of a cerebral aneurysm and apply these findings directly at hospitals.
"We are all going to be surprised by the incredible number of places that 3D printing fits into both medicine and medically-oriented research," says Dr. David H. Frakes of the Principal Investigator Image Processing Applications Laboratory at ASU.
Using a Solidscape printer and Modelworks software, Frakes and his team are hoping to unlock the mysteries of this horrific condition.
"The Solidscape machine is the heart, backbone of our process," Frakes says. "We use that to build the core blood vessel models that we then translate into transparent flow models for our experiments. The end product of our physical 3D modeling stage is a transparent block wherein there is a lost-core – or a hollow portion – of the model that is an exact replica of a cerebral aneurysm from a person. Rapid prototyping is how we get that first positive, before we get the negative, which is the flow model. All of the ground-truth data that is informing our simulations in the end, it comes from these models that the Solidscape machine helps us build."
The Image Processing Applications Laboratory (IPALab) at Arizona State University addresses current and important image processing problems in a variety of different fields. Ongoing research at IPALab includes projects that are biomedical, industrial, and military in nature. The ultimate goal is to improve human quality of life through the development and use of advanced image processing.
In addition to the groundbreaking work at ASU, Solidscape recently announced the fully automated Solidscape® MAX2 providing an easy-to-operate touch screen for any skill level to effectively produce high-precision wax patterns perfect for investment and micro-precision casting such as aerospace, automotive, electronics as well as medical implants, devices and biomedical research.