Young patient donates lifesaving 3D models to Science Museum

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Lucy Boucher hands over the 3D model of her father's kidney to Selina Hurley from the Science Museum

A four-year-old girl has handed over the 3D models which helped her to receive a lifesaving kidney transplant to the Science Museum.

Surgeons at Guy’s Hospital pioneered the use of 3D printing to support the transplant that Lucy Boucher, from Antrim in Northern Ireland, had in November 2015, after her father Chris donated his kidney to her.

The team created models of Lucy’s 10 kilogram abdomen and Chris’ kidney to help surgeons accurately plan the complex surgery and to minimise any risks. This meant that any issues involved with transplanting an adult sized donor kidney into a child’s small abdomen could be identified in advance.

It was the first time in the world that 3D printing was used to assist kidney transplant surgery involving an adult donor and child recipient.

Lucy and Chris have now donated the 3D models to the Science Museum to put them on permanent display as part of the Museum’s new Medicine Galleries, which are due to open in 2019. The new galleries will showcase cutting-edge health innovations like 3D printing alongside medical breakthroughs from throughout history.

Chris, an assistant church minister, said: “It was a great privilege for Lucy to hand the models over. We never expected such a lovely thing to result from something that began as a dark, horrible experience when Lucy developed heart failure as a baby and then kidney failure, and then needed dialysis treatment until she had her transplant.

“Lucy is thriving – the kidney is working well in her, she’s grown a lot, her appetite is excellent, she’s now at nursery and enjoying ballet classes. Being part of the exhibition is a great testament to what a lot of medics in the NHS are doing and how by being determined, innovative and forward thinking they are making healthcare the best it can be.

“We are very excited to be part of the new exhibition. One of my earliest memories as a young boy was visiting the Science Museum on holiday in London so it’s a bit bizarre that the models of Lucy and I will be on permanent display there. It’s wonderful to think that I’ll still be able to go to the museum to look at the models when I’m an old man.

“Seeing the models before Lucy’s transplant helped me to understand what would happen and eased my concerns about the surgery. It was reassuring to know that the surgeons could plan the operation in such detail before it took place.”

Mr Pankaj Chandak, a transplant registrar at Guy’s, masterminded the use of the 3D printouts for Lucy’s surgery, which was carried out at Great Ormond Street after Chris donated his kidney during a keyhole procedure at Guy’s. The team used a new 3D printer housed at St Thomas’ Hospital which was purchased thanks to a grant awarded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

He said: “I’m delighted that these models will be on display at the Science Museum. It’s wonderful to see how well Lucy is doing and it’s an honour to know that millions of people of all ages will be able to learn about the models and Lucy’s surgery when they visit the Science Museum.

“3D printing is an exciting development and in Lucy’s case meant that we could plan to overcome the complexities that transplanting an adult sized donor kidney into a child’s small abdomen can bring. It allows surgical teams to simulate the operation in advance and identify any potential challenges that may occur, before the patient is on the operating table, by using replicas which are the next best thing to the actual organs.”

Based on measurements obtained through CT and MRI scans, the 3D printer produces a model of liquid plastic, moulded under ultraviolet light to replicate the body part’s size and density. Each model took more than 10 hours to print and used materials which best matched the bony, hard pelvis and softer structures such as the liver, adding texture to them.

Selina Hurley, the Science Museum’s Curator of Medicine, said: “At the Science Museum, we endeavour to collect stories as well as objects to join the national collections.  These models represent a powerful example of one family’s story of a life-changing transplant operation but also the potential uses of 3D printing technology in surgery and medicine.”

Last updated: October 2023

Contact us

Media enquiries
Phone: 020 7188 5577
Email: [email protected]