For anyone that hasn’t seen the process demonstrated right in front of them, 3D printing is still something that sounds relatively futuristic.
But 3D printing is beginning to usher in a new era, one that recently led a team of surgeons to remove the top section of a woman’s skull and replace it with a 3D printed implant.
Made specifically for the patient, this implant was created using an unspecified type of tough plastic.
The team of surgeons, led by Dr. Bon Verweij at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, took a 22-year-old woman from the Netherlands who suffers from a chronic bone disorder and performed an operation that saved her from significant brain damage or even worse, death.
This particular patient’s skull was so thick (about two inches) that it reduced her eyesight and caused horrible headaches.
The operation took 23 hours, and was the first reported successful 3D printed cranium not rejected by the patient.
“It was only a matter of time before critical brain functions were compromised and she would die,” said Dr. Verweij. “Major surgery was inevitable, but prior to the 3D printing technique, there was no ideal effective treatment.”
Since going under the knife, she has entirely regained her eyesight and remains symptom-free.
At this point, it hasn’t been confirmed whether this implant will last a lifetime or if it will have to be replaced in the future, but surgeons expect her new skull to last indefinitely.
Dr. Verweij has previous experience working with 3D reconstructions of skulls, but this is his first time working with such a large implant.
“It is almost impossible to see that she’s ever had surgery,” said Dr. Verweij in the university’s official statement.
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