3D Printed Implants Are Now A Reality
A 60 year old man from Australia recently had the first successful surgery for implanting a 3D printed vertebrae.
Ralph Mobbs, a neurosurgeon working at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia, successfully performed the operation in 15 hours. The patient had a tumor at the top of the neck, where there are two highly-specialized vertebrae that are involved in the proper flexion and rotation of the head, vertebraes which the tumor had occupied.
Initially diagnosed in August of last year, the disease was identified as a virulent form of cancer known as chordoma. Without treatment, the tumor can slowly compress the brain stem and spinal chord, causing quadriplegia. Doctor Mobbs figured a 3D implant for treatment would help treat the disease because of the high risk of affecting such a sensitive zone when using other surgical methods.
To make the part, Mobbs worked in the designs of the piece with an Australian medical device company named Anatomics. The company also printed for the doctor a number of models of the patient’s exact anatomy so the doctor was able to practice the surgery before the real operation just to make sure the implant wouldn’t impede proper mobility of the patient’s head.
3D printing for medical operations is a new trend that has been going for a while, with reported successful cases all around the world in other countries like Croatia or China. In an interview, Mobbs said:
“To be able to get the printed implant that you know will fit perfectly because you’ve already done the operation on a model … It was just a pure delight, it was as if someone had switched on a light and said ‘crikey, if this isn’t the future, well then I don’t know what is’.”
“In the not-too-distant future, given the appropriate regulatory requirements and ethical considerations, this will start happening, whether we’re printing a disc for a patient or a pancreas for a diabetic … this is within our lifetime.”