Oct 19, 2015 | By Tess

The TangDu Hospital in Xi’an, China is no stranger to 3D printing technology, as they have successfully performed several surgeries involving 3D printed implants. Not only have they incorporated 3D printing technology into their medical treatments and operations, but the hospital is also responsible for implanting a woman with the world’s first 3D printed titanium sternum earlier this year. Just last month as well, the TangDu Hospital performed the first ever pectus excavatum correction surgery involving a 3D printed titanium plate. The medical breakthroughs that the hospital have made with the help of additive manufacturing have not slowed, however, as doctors at TangDu Hospital have recently reconstructed the chest of a 78 year old woman using a 3D printed nickel-titanium alloy sternum and rib supports.

The patient, Ms. Yao, suffered from a malignant tumor in her chest that had come to weigh nearly 4kg. The 78 year old first noticed an uncomfortable feeling in her chest three years ago, and underwent a CT scan that concluded that there was a tumor measuring 13cm but that it was benign, so Ms. Yao decided to let it go untreated. Over the course of three years, however, the tumor continued to grow until it was taking up nearly 2/3 of the front of her chest, measuring a 21.9cm X 17.9cm X 20.5cm, and was threatening to crush her lungs and heart. It was at this crucial point that that Ms. Yao and her family started to look for treatment. After being told by several hospitals there was nothing to be done, the family approached the TangDu hospital’s thoracic surgery clinic, which decided to take on the case.

The TangDu Hospital’s CT scan of Ms. Yao’s chest showed that the tumor had almost fully destroyed her sternum and the front of her ribs, and had been putting pressure on her visceral pleura, pericardium and diaphragm. Because of all these factors, the doctors at TangDu concluded that the best course to take for the treatment would be a surgical resection of the tumor. The tumor’s size, however, and the damage it had already done to her chest meant that they would also need to implant something to protect her heart and lungs after the surgery.

Jiang Tao, the Deputy Director of the thoracic department at the hospital explains, “Because the patient’s sternal ribs were completely destroyed by the tumor, if we resect the sternum, her heart and lungs will lose the ‘wall’ protection.” Before going into the surgery, Jiang Tao and his team produced a 3D printed model of the patient’s chest to see whether the surgery was even feasible. Based on the model and the 3D scans of Ms. Yao’s chest, they were also able to make a customized thoracic cage 3D printed from a nickel-titanium alloy to fit Ms. Yao.

The surgery took place on September 28th, with the process taking Jiang Tao and his team close to 5 hours. Since the surgery Ms. Yao has been recovering well and has been discharged from the hospital.

Jiang Tao explains the benefits of implanting a 3D printed custom designed thoracic cage in this type of surgery rather than the more common patch repair method, saying that the accurate anatomical dimensions of the 3D printed implant would ultimately maintain the normal structure of the thoracic skeleton in the patient, which would also allow for the patient’s respiration and circulation to be maintained normally.

Though the surgery was fortunately a success in Ms. Yao’s case, Jiang Tao warns against ignoring benign tumors. He point out, “In fact, it is possible for a benign tumor to transform into a malignant tumor if it develops for a long time.” In Ms. Yao’s case, she was extremely fortunate to be in the care of the doctors at TangDu Hospital, as their state of the art 3D printing technology continues to help save lives.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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