An 83-year old
woman has had her infected lower jaw successfully replaced with a
customized jaw bone produced with a three dimensional printer.
The Functional Morphology Research Group at the University of Hasselt in
the Netherlands created the methods to develop the jawbone, working in
collaboration with physicians, engineers and computer specialists from
several universities. A BBC news story says the implant itself was built by LayerWise, a specialized metal-parts manufacturer also in the Netherlands.
suffered from a long-lasting and rapidly spreading infection and large
face wound, and her whole lower aw had to be removed to allow her
maintain an open airway. Because of her age, doctors thought the 3D
printer implant wild be less risky than lengthy surgery for
microsurgical reconstruction. The medical team told the BBC it
took four hours to attach the 3D printed mandible to her face, one
fifth the time it would have taken fortraditional constructive surgery.
One day after the surgery, performed June 11, 2011, the woman was able
to speak, swallow and move her jaw normally. Doctors say it was the
first operation of its kind.
An ABC news story has
photos and video. The implant, a complex structure with articulated
joints, and holes and grooves to promote muscle attachment and regrowth
of nerves and veins, was made by first taking a CT scan of the woman's
jaw. Once the implant was designed, it took only a few hours to print. A
special 3D printer replicated the original using layers of titanium
powder instead of ink.
The woman is scheduled for follow up surgery later this month. The BBC story
explains a specially made dental bridge will be attached to the
implant, and teeth will be screwed into holes previously created for
Researchers at many
universities have been working on 3D printing to create organs and
other body parts for implantation. Researchers at Washington State University last
year showed that a ceramic scaffolds created by 3D printers could be
used promote growth of new bone tissue. Other researchers have used 3D
printing to develop artificial kidneys and bladders. 3D printing is
discussed in two Complexity Matters blogs last year on March 10 and August 18.
Professor Jukes Poukens, of the BIOMED Research Institute sat the University of Hasselt, predicts in a story on the university site: "Computer
technology will cause a veritable revolution in the medical world. We
just need to learn to work with it." He also asserts that the
introduction of printed implants "can be compared to man's first venture
on the moon: a cautious but firm step."