Sep 27, 2016 | By Nick
If you suffer from kidney stones then you might want to head to your nearest theme park and hit the roller coasters according to the latest research that relied heavily on 3D printing. Just remember to sit at the back.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World had a profound effect on people suffering with this crippling condition. Indeed, one patient claimed to have passed one three stones, one for every ride he took on the roller coaster.
Dr David D Wartinger, a Professor of Urology at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, led a team to investigate these spectacular claims. To do so, he and co-author Marc A Mitchell created a 3D print of the specific patient’s kidney in clear silicon. The researchers filled the model with urine and three kidney stones of differing sizes and then set about recreating the motion of the roller coaster.
The team packed the model into a backpack with three real kidney stones that had been surgically removed from a patient. They were placed in the upper, middle or lower passageways of the model kidney and the researchers took them on 20 Big Thunder Mountain Railroad rides to give 60 potential outcomes.
This was never intended to be the definitive study and was just a preliminary investigation to validate the model itself and make a car for more in-depth research. A much bigger study is required for conclusive results, but this basic investigation showed that placing the model kidney in the rear of the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of 63.89%.
Placing the model in the front seat resulted in a passage rate of 16.67%, so sitting in the rear is far more effective. You can see the full study here.
Kidney stones affect 300,000 Americans each and every year and if they grow beyond a certain point then they require costly and painful surgery that carries a lengthy recuperation period. Essentially a kidney stone is a simple hard mass of calcium, but it creates jagged edges and eventually they become lodged and require surgical removal.
The model kidney that Wartinger filled with stones and urine, then brought on a roller coaster.
(G.L. Kohuth / Michigan State University)
The cost of treating kidney stones in the US alone has been estimated at $2.1 billion and 11% of men and 6% of women suffer with kidney stones at some point in their life.
So if something as simple as riding the roller coasters could help clear these stones then it could be a real benefit. It’s an osteopathic, non-invasive, low cost and unorthodox ‘treatment’ that could change the way we look at other complex issues.
“Preliminary study findings support the anecdotal evidence that a ride on a moderate-intensity roller coaster could benefit some patients with small kidney stones,” Dr. Wartinger said. “Passing a kidney stone before it reaches an obstructive size can prevent surgeries and emergency room visits. Roller coaster riding after treatments like lithotripsy and before planned pregnancies may prevent stone enlargement and the complications of ureteral obstruction.”
Researchers also checked Space Mountain, before deciding that the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was a better option for the study. Of course it simply isn’t viable for every American to visit Walt Disney World and medical insurance companies might baulk at a trip to a theme park to clear kidney stones. It is also not a particularly scientific way to treat patients.
The team will now take the 3D model and conduct a series of experiments in a bid to discover the exact motion and force that allows the patient to dislodge the stone and pass it naturally. If it can replicate the motion reliably, without the help of a California-based rollercoaster, then this really could have the makings of a treatment that works across the board.
It’s fascinating that 3D printing can help us take such an abstract concept and refine it down to create a genuine treatment for a condition that has plagued millions of people over the years. We’ll keep an eye on this one, because if a 3D printed kidney helps create a physical treatment for kidney stones, then there is no reason why we can’t look at actual physical treatments for a vast array of other conditions.
Could this be the start of a new chapter in medical science? We’ll find out.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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