Walter Santos of Australia is living much more comfortably now, thanks to a 3D printed titanium implant in his sternum. The device, developed by Dr. Michael Harden at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, was created for Santos, a truck driver, after a rare cancer (initially presenting itself as a small bulge in the chest) was discovered due to acute, intense pain, with his upper torso feeling as if it were on fire.
As Australian medical professionals began examining the tumor, they realized they could perform surgery to remove it, but the procedure would be intricate because of the bone and tissue surrounding the area that would also need to be removed.
This type of aggressive surgery is almost like an amputation, although it is harder to visualize such a thing because in this case surgeons are working with internal parts. With so much of Santos’ sternum removed, he would need replacement parts. Harden had read about different procedures made possible due to 3D printing, and he began reaching out for different options to treat Santos. Likening his research to ‘following the rabbit down the hole,’ the surgeon happened upon Anatomics, based in Melbourne; while they are known for working with reconstructive, maxillofacial, orthopedic, and ENT doctors, they also work with thoracic surgeons.
“Anatomics pioneered 3D printed devices have become a gold standard in reconstructive surgery since 1995,” Dr. Paul S. D’Urso, neurosurgeon, and Executive Chairman of Anatomics told 3DPrint.com. “Anatomics continues to lead the world in thoracic reconstruction by using 3D printing.”
With Anatomics’ propensity for innovation and background in manufacturing medical devices, it was a logical opportunity for collaboration in creating more than just a simple 3D printed implant: this would be a sternum replacement. Currently, Anatomics is the only company in the world able to develop make an implant like the one given to Santos.
The fourteen-hour surgery required two cardiothoracic surgeons, two plastic surgeons, and an anesthetist, all working together.
“What I’m very pleased about is being able to do something which is going to give him the best results,” said Dr. Harden in regard to Santos, who is expected to be on the road driving trucks very soon.
While 3D printing is considered almost a magical tool for many engineers, designers, and makers around the globe in terms of the infinite opportunities for innovation and creative inspiration, the once obscure technology is making impacts in the medical field that are changing and saving patient’s lives. This is apparent not only with devices like 3D printed prosthetics, but also other devices and implants—with titanium being a popular choice of materials today. Scientists are offering up a healthy amount of research and experimentation with metal 3D printing, including projects like testing diamond-coated implants and other materials for implants that are bioactive and porous. Find out more about the latest in medical breakthroughs here.
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