July 23, 2015 | By Simon

As we continue to see how 3D printing is being used by more medical professionals to create study models prior to a surgery, we’re also starting to see an increase in the amount of 3D prints that are designed to be implanted into the human body, too.  

More recently, a South Korean medical team used 3D printing to manufacture a patient-specific custom pelvis implant for a teenage girl who needed a replacement after suffering from bone cancer.  

Prior to the surgery, the patient, Ms. Kim, was unable to walk due to the damage and pain caused by the bone cancer.  Within days of having the 3D printed pelvis implanted, she is already up and walking again and is expected to recover very quickly.   

According to the medical team, while Ms. Kim first began to feel pain during an exercise session in July of 2014, she didn’t end up going to the doctor until the following November.  After a pathological examination, Ms. Kim was diagnosed with pelvic malignant tumors.  Earlier this year, Ms. Kim’s condition became so painful that she was unable to even attend school.  

Ms. Kim’s medical team, which was led by Yonsei University Severance hospital neurosurgeon Shen Tongya, decided to go through with traditional cancer treatments in effort  to make the tumor smaller, which would then be followed by a full pelvis replacement.  Since replacing the entire pelvis involves cutting off all of the spinal nerves, the team decided to cut off only three vital nerves to remove the left side of the pelvis, which was then reproduced using 3D printing.  Although 3D printing the pelvis itself wasn’t a huge challenge, the team had to be sure to optimize the removal location so that the implant would be able to fully support the weight of the upper body.  

On March 23, Ms. Kim underwent surgery for the implant and the operation only took six hours, compared to up to nine hours that traditional pelvic resection procedures take.  In a general surgery, when pelvic substitutes cannot coincide with human precision, it needs to be cut and fit with the body, so the operation time will also increase. Medical team explained, using 3D printing technology to create the pelvis does not require this additional work, so this ultimately shortened the operation time.

The use of a 3D printed pelvic bone not only significantly shortened the total operation time, but it also allows for patients to recover much faster.  Due to the rapid recovery, Kim has started a cancer treatment after 3 weeks.

“Because we used a custom 3D printed pelvis which has the exact shape of the spine of the patient, our patient can not only recover quickly and but also maintain security of the spine,” explained Dr. Shen Tongya.

“Now Kim has no pain anymore, and she will regularly check to make sure if recurrence and metastasis of malignant tumor.”

The first 3D printed pelvis was successfully completed in early 2014 after British Dr. Craig Gerrand performed surgery on a 60-year-old man who suffered from bone sarcoma.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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