We’ve seen the introduction of 3D printing and how its application in our daily lives is increasingly becoming relevant. Although the concept still might seem alien to many, it is worth mentioning that 3D printing is perhaps one of the greatest technologies of the 21st century. We’ve seen 3D printed jewelry, apparel, to even miniature homes. Now, a 54 year old Spanish man has just gotten a 3D printed chest prosthetic – the first ever of its kind.
The patient in question lost his sternum and part of his rib cage to cancer and got the prosthetic alternative made out of lightweight but incredibly strong titanium. This isn’t the first time titanium has been used as an implant but replacing large sections of the rib cage is risky business. These implants are generally created from different plate components and in time could come loose and create complications for the patient.
Surgeons at the Salamanca University Hospital in Spain came to a conclusion that a custom made titanium prosthetic could provide a more accurate representation of the part of the rib cage that the patient has lost. This would also be a long term and safer option.
However, turning this ground breaking concept into a reality wasn’t exactly easy. Surgeons took high resolution 3D CT scans of the patient’s chest to figure out which areas needed to be replaced. They then called upon Anatomics, an Australian based company, to design and create the replacement sternum and rib cage.
Printing with titanium isn’t quite as simple as printing with home 3D printers such as MakerBot, it needs a greater level of expertise and equipment. In fact, Anatomics employed a $1.3 million electron beam Arcam 3D printer to create the prosthetic. This was then flown to Spain where it was later implanted in the patient.
The patient was released from the hospital only after 12 days of the final surgery and has been reported to be doing well. This only goes on to exemplify how important the 3D printing technology has become in this era.