Feb 22, 2016 | By Tess
Within the medical world, 3D printing technology has opened the doors for many world’s first surgeries as the technology has facilitated the manufacturing of high quality and custom fitted implants. Now, at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia, another medical miracle has taken place: a team of doctors have successfully implanted a 3D printed vertebrae into a patient suffering from a life-threatening case of chordoma cancer.
The patient, Drage Josevski, was diagnosed with chordoma, a type of cancer that manifests in the bones of the skull and spine, and because his tumor was found in his top two vertebrae, at the back of his neck, his prognosis was not an optimistic one. As Dr. Ralph Mobbs, who conducted his surgery explains, “Without surgery and without treatment of this type of tumor, the outlook for this patient would be particularly nasty and a particularly horrific way of dying…He would gradually lose function of his arms and legs, gradually lose function of his capacity to breathe, eat…it’s not a pleasant death at all.”
The surgery, which took place in December 2015, took Dr. Mobbs an extensive 15 hours, and consisted of removing the cancerous and tumor riddled vertebrae through the patient’s mouth. From there a 3D printed titanium vertebrae prosthesis was implanted in order to offer support and stability at the base of the head where it meets the neck.
Dealing with such a fragile part of the body, it was unsure whether Jasevski would even survive the surgery. As Dr Mobbs said before the surgery took place, “The surgery that we’re doing today is a particularly complicated and long and difficult surgery. It involved long exposure at the top of the neck…and it’s essentially [detaching] the patient’s head from his neck and taking the tumor out and reattaching his head back to his neck.”
Fortunately for Mr. Josevksi and his dedicated wife and daughter, the long and intensive surgery went well, thanks to the ease of implanting a custom made 3D printed vertebrae. Dr Mobbs reflected on the process saying, “I must say it was a delight to put in, because after spending 15 hours taking out a very complicated tumor it was beautiful just to slot in the implant and have it fit so nicely and to be able to reconstruct the space left by the tumor.”
Like in other medical prosthetic cases, the titanium 3D printed implant was custom made and based off of CT scans of the patient’s neck in order to fit it perfectly. Dr. Mobbs and the Prince of Wales Hospital worked with Melbourne, Australia based medical device company Anatomics to manufacture the prosthetic.
After the surgery, the patient did suffer some unexpected complications and discomforts as he found himself having trouble eating and speaking, though Dr. Mobbs attributes these complications to the surgery itself, which went through Mr. Josevski’s mouth and stretched it open for many hours. Fortunately, the patient is meant to recover within 6 months, and his family remains grateful that he is still around. As his daughter said, “He’s just excited to be around for my wedding and to see his grandkids grow up, and just be in our life.”
As we’ve seen in many other dire cases, 3D printing has helped to restore life to patient’s suffering from serious diseases. Dr. Mobbs, who has seen firsthand what 3D printing can do in surgery said of the technology, “3D printing of body parts is the next phase of individualized health care. To restore bones, joints, organs with this type of technology really is super exciting…”
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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