Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
Modern medicine is amazing, but the future of medicine is truly limitless. It seems like every day we’re hearing about a new technology or pioneering research that could change the way we care for patients. Last week, one of those medical breakthroughs came in the field of spinal care.
Surgeons at a Beijing University hospital announced that they performed a successful spinal operation using a 3D printed implant, which is believed to be a first-of-its-kind surgery. The spinal implant is a 3D printed titanium mesh tube used to reconstruct the spinal link and support system between the patient’s chest and abdomen.
But wait, the story gets even cooler. Two weeks prior to the operation, the patient named Mr. Yuan was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his backbone. Mr. Yuan needed to have the tumor removed, but removal alone left him with a poor chance of survival. The only way to effectively treat the condition involved removing five sections of his backbone and replacing them with an artificial substitute, but there was no ready-made gradt. Instead, the surgical team opted to go with a 19-centimeter 3D printed mesh tube because it would allow the normal spinal tissues to grow around it, reconstruct and restabilize the spine, and it could be produced rather quickly.
“The titanium mesh tube can be any length, even shorter than 19 centimeters,” said Dr. Liu Zhongjun, chief orthopedics surgeon at Beijing University Third Hospital. “3D printing can produce implants of whatever size and shape.”
Surgeons had high hopes for the surgery, but even they admitted that Mr. Yuan is recovering better than expected. Dr. Zhongjun said he was impressed by Mr Yuan’s quick response to the implant, noting that the patient was up and walking by himself just days after the operation.
“Our prognosis is that the patient will have a full recovery,” said Dr. Zhongjun.
It is believed to be the first time that a surgical team used a 3D printed model to replace at least five resected vertebrae. As for Mr. Yuan, he’s just happy the technology was available to him.
“For me, I would not have recovered without 3D printing,” said Mr. Yuan.