MUSC team uses 3-D skull to treat baby with birth defect

Hopefully all he will have of this one day is a cool scar...and maybe a 3-D model skull

Crystal and Timothy Bausmith knew something was wrong when a neurologist came to consult with them after their son’s birth. Rhett’s head was misshapen, because he had craniosynostosis, a birth defect in which the bones in a baby’s skull join together too early.

MUSC's Ramin Eskandari, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon, and Jason Ulm, M.D., a plastic surgeon, joined forces to figure out the best way to help Rhett. Imaging showed his skull had not one, but two sutures (fibrous joints on babies' skulls that turn into bone) that had prematurely closed.

Often in these cases it’s just one suture that closes, but Rhett’s case was rare, Ulm said. The two sutures that had fused were affecting brain growth and the formation of Rhett’s face. Already one section of the skull that encases the eye, the orbital rim, had pulled back.

Ulm and Eskandari requested MUSC’s bioprinting labs to take Rhett’s scans and make 3-D skulls. Ulm said only a handful of medical centers in the country are using bioprinting technology to create replicas of patients’ skulls to better plan surgical procedures. It also opens a new frontier in the training of residents and in creating a powerful tool to educate families about what can be very complex surgical cases.

Rhett, born May 1, 2015, had his first surgery of a two-stage repair on Dec. 17.  

Rhett’s mom, Crystal, says having the 3-D skull was very helpful, especially in understanding the eyes and how the orbits were misshapen.

Rhett is doing well, and his parents have noticed no developmental delays so far. Rhett’s dad said they were excited to be able to take one of the skulls home.

“Hopefully all he will have of this one day is a cool scar,” Timothy Bausmith said. “That will be the only thing -- and maybe a 3-D model skull.”

Read 3-D skull technology a no-brainer in neurosurgical cases by Dawn Brazell of MUSC’s News Center, part one of a two part feature.

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3-d model, patient story, rhett