Using 3D scanning, 3D simulation, and CAD, engineers at the Queensland University of Technology have created a patient-specific contoured mattress that successively supports patients in the operating room.

Paige Little is an expert on using state-of-the-art imaging technology to understand ideal body position and support for enhancing the quality of sleep. It’s the kind of research used to improve beds for the home. But in 2018, Little was contacted by a consultant who asked for something more serious. Could she design a customized, patient-specific surgical mattress for a 10-year-old about to undergo spinal surgery?

The patient had Morquio syndrome, a disorder that causes skeletal abnormalities and neuromuscular scoliosis. She would need to lie safely on her stomach and the front of her body for the duration of the surgery.

“Intraoperative patient position is always a critical factor in spinal surgery, particularly in the case of prone patient positioning, where the anatomy and physiology of the torso is such that additional pressure may have adverse effects on the cardiopulmonary system as well as causing skin and muscle necrosis,” Little said. “Optimal patient positioning for spine surgery is vital for surgical success and the minimization of complications intra and postoperatively.”

Little, an associate professor at the school of mechanical, medical, and process engineering at Queensland University of Technology, is up to the challenge. Using an innovative digital workflow involving 3D surface scanning, 3D simulation and computer-aided design (CAD), she successfully created a customized theater mattress with the patient’s specific body-contour requirements. The operation was a success, and the surgical team praised the mattress and its positive impact on patient outcome.