Over here at The PractitioNERD, there have been stories already covered that discussed the contributions the 3D printing has given in the advancement of science and medicine. Now, 3D-printed implants have just completed one of their biggest real-world tests to date. Peking University Third Hospital has successfully implanted the first 3D-printed vertebra in a 12-year-old boy who was suffering from spinal cord cancer. What makes this story great is that should everything go smoothly down the road for this young boy, this surgery will be proof that 3D-printed bones are useful virtually anywhere in the body, and, (in certain circumstances) might even save your life. That is pretty FREAKIN’ SWEET!!
Here’s the jist: the bone implant is made from titanium powder (similar to many orthopedic implants), however this material is considered to be safer and longer-lasting than conventional replacements. Plus, since it’s designed to mimic the shape of the child’s original vertebra, neither cement nor screws are necessary to keep the implant in place, and the healing period should come along quicker, as well. Along with that, the implant includes a series of small holes that allow natural bone growth, turning the implant into a permanent, stable part of the boy’s spine, negating the need for adjustments at any point in the future. CCTV notes that the full results of this surgery won’t be available for some time. The young patient would need to wear external gear that will keep his head and neck still for the following three months or longer, just to be sure that the implant holds up well in real-world conditions.
But still: HECK YEAH!