Oct 1, 2015 | By Tess

3D printing technology has been a vital part of several recent advancements in medical fields across the globe. In China, doctors and researchers continue to develop and employ additive manufacturing procedures in order to facilitate and accommodate their patients. In a recent case, the Hunan Cancer Hospital teamed up with the Hunan Dimension Intelligent Technology in order to fit one of their patients with a 3D printed sternum bone replacement.

The patient in question was admitted to hospital in early September of this year in order to have the growing lump in his chest examined. After conducting tests and a conclusive CT scan, doctors found that the source of the problem was coming from bone tumors originating in his sternum.

The tumors, which were growing in size on his sternum and affecting his first Sternocostal joints, were causing the patient chest pain, shortness or breath and tightness on his lungs. The doctors on this case had to act quickly, and after an emergency meeting decided that the best course of action would entail removing the tumor and affected bone and inserting a custom 3D printed titanium sternum.

Traditionally, treatment for similar cases would involve only removing part of the sternum and replacing the latter with a cement-based material. The problem with this procedure, however, is that it has tended to cause sometimes even severe discomfort for the affected patient after the operation. The new method involving 3D printing has been geared towards a smoother patient recovery.

Using a high-resolution CT scanner, the hospital was able to compile detailed data from their patient, which was then sent off in DICMON format to a medical 3D processing software. Using this software, doctors were able to obtain the patient’s pathological bone data in STL format, which could then be sent to Hunan New Sense Intelligent Technology to be 3D printed.

In order to perfect the design for the replacement sternum, doctors and computer engineers from Hunan New Sense Intelligent Technology collaborated extensively until they were satisfied with the model, which could fit seamlessly into the sternal ribs and manubrium.

The material used in additively manufacturing the replacement sternum was a titanium alloy, which has been a common material for 3D printing such things as prosthetics. Because of its impressive strength, corrosion resistance, and heat resistance the material has proved most useful in the medical field and elsewhere as well. Additionally, because of titanium’s superior strength to the human bone, doctors were able to design the replacement sternum to be slightly smaller than a human bone sternum, reducing its weight and consequently reducing patient discomfort down the road.

Once the titanium sternum had been manufactured using laser sintering technology, it was sent back to the Hunan Cancer Hospital where the operation was to take place. The operation took place on September 23rd, 2015, and after several hours of meticulous and careful surgery, it was a success! There appeared to be no complications with the implant, as the patient suffered no adverse reactions after the surgery. The patient, who is still in recovery from the surgery, was particularly grateful and thanked the Hunan Cancer Hospital for collaborating with Hunan Dimension Intelligent Technology in order to help him.

This is just another success story for the marriage between impressive medical feats and 3D printing technology. With the increasing capability to produce and manufacture almost anything from an ever-growing number of materials, we can only begin to imagine how the two will continue to grow together in the future and continue to help and change the lives of many individuals.




Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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