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WQAD.com

YOUR HEALTH: It is brain surgery!

3-D printers in the operating room are giving us a view inside the tiniest parts of the brain.

CLEVELAND — Few things are as precise as brain surgery.

Now doctors are using 3-D printers to create exact replicas of a tiny aneurysm. It helps surgeons before even entering the operating room.

It helped save Daniel Rayes life who was living his dream managing an upscale diner.

"I get to serve them, take care of them, talk to them and then like form relationships."

A happy, healthy 25-year-old until he suddenly fell ill.

"I started to get like delirious and dizzy," he remembered. "It felt like I had a migraine, but like there was a spoon digging outward like the headache. It was above my right temple and behind my ear."

Daniel had a brain aneurysm, a weakening of a blood vessel. If not treated, it can cause stroke or even death. 

Angiograms and CAT scans give surgeons a detailed look at the problem before surgery.

"Planning is the biggest thing it's sort of like building a house," explained Dr. Mark Bain, a neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. "You don't have blueprints.  It's really hard to be successful."

Now, neurosurgeons at the Cleveland Clinic are using information from the scans to make exact 3-D printed replicas, the same size and same shape of the aneurysms.

"When you can actually print an aneurysm and hold it in your hand in life size and be able to rotate it and see it, uh, it really means everything," said Dr. Bain. "I mean, you can plan the whole procedure."

Surgeons can develop a patient-specific plan, visualizing the surgical approach, cutting time in the operating room by almost half, and it`s an educational tool for patients and young doctors.

Dr. Bain said the first time he tried the procedure the 3-D printer showed a branch that was not easily seen on the scan. This helped doctors cut the procedure time in half.

As for Daniel, his surgeons were able to clearly see his aneurysm. 

They clipped it to prevent it from bleeding and now he's back at the diner.

"I have friends here," he said. "I have customers and coworkers that care about me and I care about them."

Serving up some sweet times for everyone.

The downside?  

The cost of 3-D printing is one limiting factor, so is time. 

It typically takes a couple of weeks to generate a replica, the technology is limited to non-urgent, non-ruptured aneurysms.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.