Australian Doctor Implants 3D-Printed Vertebrae In World's First Surgery

Posted: Apr 25 2017, 4:25am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Australian Doctor Implants 3D-Printed Vertebrae in World's First Surgery
Image Credit: Ralph Mobbs
  • Australian Doctor implants 3D-printed vertebrae in world's first surgery

The latest 3D printable fillers could lower the pressure on overstressed knees.

A material has been made in the lab that will allow surgeons to fit 3D implants in damaged knees of ailing patients one fine day in the future. These will be custom-made in accordance with the patient’s requirements.

The menisci of the human knees prevent shocks and absorb much of the impacts the knees undergo. However, over time they lose their elasticity and hence wear and tear occurs. Risk of contracting arthritis increases as well.

The material is based on hydrogel. It is a perfect match for human cartilage in its tenacity and elasticity. Not only can you print it in 3D but it will be stable once inside the human body.

The menisci do not heal well after adulthood is reached. There are certain issues in the 3D printing of hydrogels right now. Yet it is not something which could not be improved upon.

In 2015, a surgery took place in which similar 3D printable fillers were implanted in vertebrae. The surgeons knew that they were on to something. It was the future in the making actually if you look at it from a certain angle.

Although 3D printers are not available in the common household, we have seen many such devices being used in the field of medicine. The implants made from these 3D printers are such they they could be made to fit just about anywhere in the body.

It all depends upon context and compatibility. The recent surgery that took place involved a patient who was in his sixties. He had a tumor in his backbone towards the neck region.

The tumor had made a home for itself in his neck and was compressing the brain and spinal chord. Had the operation not gone well, quadriplegia might well have been the future of this senior citizen.

Previously, there had been very few attempts to treat this problem since it was a delicate matter. It was the best chance of testing 3D implants. So the researchers just went for it.

Ralph Mobbs is a neurosurgeon at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, who did the world's first surgery to implant 3D-printed vertebrae. The surgery took 15 hours in its duration. The sixty year old patient is currently recovering.

Mobbs told Mashable Australia, "At the top of the neck, there are two highly-specialised vertebrae that are involved in the flexion and rotation of the head. This tumour had occupied those two vertebrae."

Yet he will make it through with the tumor having been rmoved from his vertebrae and new filler material having been implanted in its place. It seems that the future of 3D printing is even more secure since it could be used in many more contexts.

"To be able to get the printed implant that you know will fit perfectly because you've already done the operation on a model ... It was just a pure delight," Mobbs said. "It was as if someone had switched on a light and said 'crikey, if this isn't the future, well then I don't know what is'."

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