Prototype ‘printed’ for eye surgery

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by Vicky Cerino, UNMC

Eye surgeon, Donny Suh, M.D., changes the lives of patients with his hands and with the tools he uses.

As an inventor, Dr. Suh has discovered how useful 3D printing is for improving medical instruments used in surgery to repair Strabismus, a condition in which the eyes cross from misaligned eye muscles.

He has been working with the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s 3D printing club, UNMC Makers, with the support of the McGoogan Library of Medicine.

Donny Suh, M.D.

Dr. Suh

“I’m very excited about this project and to be working with UNMC graduate students and staff. They are as enthusiastic and energetic as I am,” said Dr. Suh, associate professor in the UNMC Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the Truhlsen Eye Institute and chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

Dr. Suh said one of the traditional tools he uses to repair eye muscles in hundreds of children each year, called a needle driver, cannot easily maneuver into tight spaces for the surgery.

“The new tool will allow surgeons to work in a very small space with a limited view around the eye without compromising the safety to perform eye muscle surgery with a great precision.”

To see if such a tool would effectively function, he and his team used 3D technology to develop a prototype to be tried in a laboratory setting.

With the help of Tyler Scherr, Ph.D. and graduate student, Tim Bielecki, Dr. Suh printed a prototype. A manufacturer is in the process of making a titanium prototype of the tool.

When the prototype is completed, Dr. Suh will test the tool in the laboratory.

“He will be able to get a feel for the tool to see if it will be workable in a clinical setting,” Bielecki said. “Dr. Suh opened the door to collaboration. He knew we had the technology to develop a prototype that could save time and money.”

“I feel privileged to be a part of a collaborative effort with Dr. Suh’s team to improve a surgical tool,” said Dr. Scherr. “Dr. Suh came to us originally to use 3D printing to speed up the process. He’s really creative. In the past, it could take almost two years for the design process with a manufacturer.”

Dr. Suh and his team plan to present his project at an international conference of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Hawaii.

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