OLATHE, Kan. — A new partnership between Johnson County Med-Act and the Johnson County Library could help save lives and potentially save the county thousands of dollars on medical supplies. 

Starting in 2023, Johnson County Med-Act will add surgical cricothyrotomy as a treatment intervention option for patients who can’t breathe due to a blockage in their airwaves or severe trauma.  

Cricothyrotomy is the process of making an incision in a patient’s neck to insert a tube into the trachea to establish an airway.

Adiel Garcia, Division Chief of Education and Integrated Healthcare at Med-Act, said while the need for that level of medical care may be rare, paramedics have to train to handle any type of emergency scenario. 

“We have to come up with as many different situations as possible that we might find ourselves in, so that we can cover all of those situations and become comfortable with cutting somebody’s neck open,” Garcia said.  

To prepare for the procedural change, Med-Act has partnered with the Black & Veatch MakerSpace at Johnson County Library to 3D print anatomically correct models for paramedics to practice on. 

A Cricothyrotomy Simulator, commonly referred to as a cric simulator, is a model that allows paramedics to practice the live saving procedure until the routine becomes muscle memory. 

The cric model includes two different components. The first piece is a frame that replicates a person’s neck from the chin to the sternum. The second piece is a trachea that sits inside the neck piece. Garcia said paramedics will place a piece of crafting material over the trachea to act as skin to make the simulation appear as realistic as possible. 

Cric simulators typically cost $200-$1,000 depending on the type of model needed. Garcia said it costs the county roughly $12-15 to 3D print a model at the library.

“Since we are cutting into this fake skin, we have to replace that. These replacement parts, when you take into consideration the 3D printed parts and then the replacement parts. In the long-run it’s easily thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars that we’re saving with 3D printed cric trainers,” Garcia said.  

It takes roughly 8-12 hours to print one of the models at the library’s makerspace. Garcia said Med-Act is now researching options to 3D print other training models through the National Health Institute’s 3D Print Exchange program.

“We are already looking at what’s next. For example, one of the other procedures that we do is put needles in somebody’s bones when we can’t find the vein. Those bones can be 3D printed,” Garcia said.   

Med-Act plans to print at least 20 cric models to place one training simulator at each Med-Act station throughout the county by December. Garcia said this will give paramedics roughly a month to practice on the models before the new protocol is implemented in January.