Section of Minimally Invasive Surgery — Featured News


Left to right, statistical data analyst Gary Skolnick, craniofacial plastic surgeon Kamlesh Patel, MD, staff scientist Dominic Thompson Jr., and craniofacial plastic surgeon Albert Woo, MD, examine a model of a patient’s skull created through 3-D printing.

3-D printing reshapes surgical care

At the Washington University Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery (WUIMIS), 3-D printing and other technologies play a central role in advancing patient care. Already known for pioneering laparoscopic surgery and for producing and evaluating meshes used in hernia surgery, WUIMIS today is partnering with the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and orthopedic surgeons to develop 3-D printing technologies that make various treatments less costly, more efficient and more effective.

Three-D printers are at the forefront of the research center’s latest technological wave, as staff scientists team up with plastic surgeons Albert Woo, MD, and Kamlesh Patel, MD, to create craniofacial models that guide them in the operating room. Use of the models is not new; Woo and Patel previously worked with outside companies to produce them in the shape of their patients’ skulls so they could plan surgeries and reference the models during surgery. But securing a commercial-grade printer for plastic surgery through a grant from The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital allows them to produce models significantly cheaper and faster.

“These models decrease operative time and help us to be more exact with our reconstructions, thereby decreasing the need for reoperation,” says Woo. “By having the technology at Washington University, we can produce models within 24 to 48 hours rather than several weeks. That allows us to create models not only for patients who can wait weeks for surgery, but for acute patients as well.”

Other 3-D printers at WUIMIS are being used to produce prosthetic arms, which Washington University biomedical engineering students couple with electronic circuitry to provide basic arm and hand function.

“By contracting your arm muscles, you can move the arm and hand. It will twist the wrist or will tell the fingers or thumb to open or close,” says student Savannah Est.

The arm is especially suitable for children, who grow out of devices quickly and are apt to break them. WUIMIS personnel are working with Washington University orthopedic surgeons to offer the technology.

WUIMIS plans to provide the modeling technology to other surgical specialists, such as urologists and heart surgeons and eventually may be able to produce other types of prostheses.

Collaboration keeps 14-year-old moving


Biomedical engineering students Nabeel Chowdhury and Savannah Est combined electronics with 3-D printing to produce a functional prosthetic arm for 14-year-old Sydney Kendall.

Sydney Kendall, a 14-year-old Chesterfield, Missouri, girl, is excited about blazing a trail in the use of 3-D printing to manufacture prosthetics.

Sydney lost her right forearm in a boating accident at age six. In the past two years, Washington University biomedical engineering students working with WUIMIS have combined circuitry with 3-D printing to give her a pink prosthetic arm — allowing her to throw a ball, move a computer mouse and perform other tasks — and more recently, a blue arm that further expands her range of motion. The blue model costs only a fraction of what a standard prosthetic costs to produce.

As Sydney moves her arm muscles, the prosthetic’s electronics read the muscles’ electrical impulses and allow her to open or close fingers and thumb, or twist the wrist.

“Sydney feels privileged to be chosen by her doctor (Washington University orthopedic surgeon Charles Goldfarb, MD, at Shriners Hospital) to be a part of this process,” says her mother, Beth.


  • Surgeon Michael Awad, MD, PhD, who also serves as associate dean for medical student education, played a major role in the recent Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) site visit of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He and Alison Whelan, MD, senior associate dean for education, led the school through the reaccreditation process, which required an extensive self-study and documentation. The survey was conducted March 8-11, 2015.
  • The Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE) — a surgical simulation center — recently was reaccredited for three years by the American College of Surgeons as a Comprehensive Education Institute. The center serves not only the Department of Surgery, but other training programs at Washington University Medical Center and around the region.
  • WISE was one of the original 20 test centers for the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) Fundamentals of Endoscopic Surgery course, a test of knowledge and skills in flexible gastrointestinal endoscopy. The simulation center is also one of the original test centers for the SAGES Fundamental Use of Surgical Energy (FUSE) program and a beta test site for the FUSE certification examination, which certifies candidates in the safe use of surgical energy-based devices.