Jun 3, 2014 | By Cynthia

In Xi'an, China, the capital of Shaanxi province, 3D-printed titanium prostheses were successfully implanted into three patients suffering from cancerous bone tumors. The procedures took place on March 27 and April 3 and the patients are currently in good condition and recovering with their new, 3D-printed bone replacements: a collar bone, a shoulder bone, and the right ilium of the pelvis.

One of the three patients, a 20-year-old woman, was diagnosed a year ago with Ewing's sarcoma in her right collar bone. Ewing's sarcoma is a type of small, round, blue-celled tumor. The second patient also suffered from this disease in her right scapula or shoulder bone. And the third patient was diagnosed with cancer in the right ilium of the pelvis. These patients all had malignant tumors which could be life threatening if not removed. Eventually, the hospital decided that operations were needed to remove the tumors and replace the affected bones. This is where 3D printing technology comes in.

A clavicle or collarbone replacement is a difficult procedure because of the complexity of the bone. With 3D-printing technology, it was possible to avoid some complications involved in the traditional procedure. Computer imaging was used to design a collarbone in the exact size and shape of the patient's original bone. The 3D bone design was printed using laser sintering technology which fused titanium powder into the exact shape of the bone. This process produces a strong, customized titanium implant which ensures the implant fits well in the patient's body. Infections and loosening and can be prevented in this way and lead to better health and functionality for the patient.

Other advantages of the 3D-printed "titanium bones" are their weight, density, and surface texture. Doctors in Xi'an used specific calculations to improve the strength and lower the weight and density of the implants in order to create realistic, porous replicas of the patients' bones. The surface textures of 3D-printed implants are also more realistic. Compared to the smooth surfaces of machined parts, the surfaces of 3D printed implants may be sponge-like which is good for muscle, bone and soft tissue growth around the implant and also lowers the chance of fluid build-up and infection.

Doctor Guo Zheng, an orthopedics professor at Xijing Hospital of the Fourth Military Medical University in the city led the team in these clinical trials using 3D-printed titanium prostheses. He cited the quality and accuracy of the 3D printed implants, the low cost of production – half the cost of traditional techniques using molds, and the decreased waiting time for patients as advantages of 3D printing technology in bone replacement procedures.

Pei Guoxian, director of the orthopedics clinic of Xijing Hospital told China Daily that "[t]he operations to implant the titanium prostheses into the patients repaired the bone defects in different body parts and solved the worldwide problem of individual reconstruction for bone loss after the removal of bone tumors from complex body parts".

The 3D-printed procedures in Xi'an were the result of careful study and received the approval of the hospital ethics committee. According Xijing Hospital, these procedures were the world's first clinic application of 3D printing in shoulder and collar bone replacements.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Vincent messina wrote at 4/14/2016 10:42:53 PM:

Please contact me ,I very interested in get a replacement for left missing clavicle

vincent messina wrote at 3/30/2016 9:00:32 AM:

I need help , I missing my clavicle , I would love to be a recipient of one of the those implants ,

Wendy Jacobs wrote at 3/25/2016 2:20:44 AM:

My name is Wendy Jacobs. I am 33years old. In July 2015 my oncologist told me that my cervical cancer had spread to my right ilium. Treatments that have been tried was radiotherapy and chemo. Doctors say its to risky to operate. Need help and next opinion. Regards Wendy Email: w.c.jacobs@gmail.com

Andrew P wrote at 6/3/2014 2:06:42 PM:

This *really* needs to be re-titled "In China, world's first successful 3D-printed pelvis, shoulder and collar bone implants" considering several of pelvis photos are what show up in feeds, retweets and the like.

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