Medical applications for 3D printing continue to surprise. In China a few months ago, 62 year old Ms Lu was diagnosed with a form of bone tumour. Until recently it would have been incurable and very painful. Using a 3D printed Titanium prosthesis, doctors were able to replace part of her pelvis.
The prosthesis was printed using a technology called electron beam melting (EBM), and because it was printed in titanium, Lu’s body was very acceptant of it. Titanium is one of those metals that the body rarely rejects, thus making it the perfect material to use in the creation of strong prosthesis. 3D printing allowed for the complete customization of this prosthesis, after CT scans were taken of Lu’s pelvis.
A similar technique has been used, also for a pelvis, in Britain.
In South China this year a 27 year old woman was given a titanium 3D printed shoulder, to replace a joint and shoulder blade affected by a tumour.
A woman in Shanghai had part of her jaw replaced, which ended five years of pain and suffering.
Ms. Sun received a 3D printed titanium lower jaw implant during her operation – which was completed by Zhang Qingfu of the oral surgery center together with Dr. Gang. 3D technology such as CT image reconstruction, computer-aided design, and biomechanical analysis was used to make the mandible prosthesis light weight and of good biocompatibility.
A team in Switzerland have developed a method for printing a polymer and samples of a patient’s cartilage, in such a way that the cartilage cells grow over the polymer scaffold and wind up a natural part of the body that grows as the rest of it does. No doubt old football players will be pleased to hear that, although there’s a year of clinical trials before they put it in actual people.
Finally, a little girl who was born with frontonasal dysplasia underwent successful reconstructive surgery with the help of 3D printed models. You can practise on polymer, but not on a little girl. She’s well and happy after the operation.