Jan 27, 2016 | By Tess

We have to give two big thumbs up for 3D printing in the medical field as just yesterday it was announced that a team of Thai doctors from the Phramongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok successfully replaced a metacarpal thumb bone with a 3D printed titanium prosthesis - an impressive world first!

The announcement was made by Dr. Thipachart Punyaratabandhu, the chief of the hospital’s Orthopaedic Section, as he explained how his team was able to transplant a 3D printed titanium thumb bone into a woman’s thumb, whose organic bone had deteriorated from the presence of a tumor.

In a traditional metacarpal transplant, the thumb bone would have been replaced with organic bone from either the hip or leg, but in those cases the patients would not be able to properly use their new appendage. With the 3D printed titanium implant, which is lighter, and stronger, however, the 37-year old patient will be able to continue using her thumb, just as she did before.

“The patient would not have been able to move their thumb or the tumor may have returned if the old method was used, but with the 3D printed titanium bone, the patient can use their hand as normal,” explains Dr. Thipachart Punyaratabandhu.

The team of doctors created the customized thumb implant by scanning and x-raying the patient’s healthy left thumb and then applied mirror imaging to digitally render what her right thumb bone would have looked like. From there, the made-to-fit implant was 3D printed in a resin material which was cast with a biomedical titanium. The entire production process took only a week, though the team of doctors from Phramongkutklao Hospital’s Orthopaedic section spent nearly two years researching and developing the 3D printed thumb project.

The surgical proceedings began last June, when doctors removed the deteriorated bone from the patient’s hand and waited to ensure that the tumor would not return. After confirming the latter in late September, the team of surgeons continued the procedure and implanted the titanium bone by attaching it to the nearest tendon in the patient’s hand.

Now, after months of recovery, things are looking positive for the patient and her new thumb bone, as she can continue to use her hand as normal.

The procedure is a first in the medical world, though it is sure not to be the last 3D printed titanium metacarpal implant. As Boonrat Lohwongwatana, a member of the engineering team that created the implant says, “This technique can also be used to replace damaged bones from other parts of the body and it only takes a couple of weeks to make one of these bones.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Smee wrote at 9/16/2016 5:23:40 PM:

Extruding molten titanium to medical grade exactness levels (sub mm??) would be extremely....challenging, at best.

Dan The Man wrote at 1/27/2016 1:36:17 PM:

hmm... a little misleading. I get the impression that this hasnt been 3D printed, the investment cast model has been printed which has then been used to cast out of titanium as standard?

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