Printed three-dimensional airway model assists planning of single-lung ventilation in a small child

Br J Anaesth. 2015 Oct;115(4):616-20. doi: 10.1093/bja/aev305.


Background: Single-lung ventilation in infants and small children is challenging because suitable sizes of double-lumen cuffed tracheal tubes are not available. A 6-yr-old child required pulmonary saline washout for primary alveolar proteinosis, and therefore needed sequential single-lung ventilation in order to achieve safe oxygenation. Before undertaking this potentially hazardous procedure, we practised bronchial intubation on an anatomical model of her airway constructed from computed tomography (CT) data.

Methods: We created a full-scale, anatomically accurate, transparent plastic model of the trachea and main bronchi on a three-dimensional printer using data from a CT scan. We then performed several different airway approaches to identify those likely to be most suitable, ex vivo, before the clinical procedure was carried out on the patient.

Results: The model helped us to choose the type and size of bronchial tubes and to practise their insertion beforehand. Subsequently, during anaesthesia, the chosen technique was successful.

Conclusions: Three-dimensional printing of a model of the airway of a small child aided planning of bronchial intubation and single-lung ventilation. Three-dimensional printing of airway structures may have wider application in anaesthesia practice.

Keywords: airway management; models, anatomical; one-lung ventilation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Bronchi
  • Bronchography
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Models, Anatomic*
  • One-Lung Ventilation / instrumentation*
  • One-Lung Ventilation / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Trachea / diagnostic imaging*