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Cancer patient undergoes world’s first 3D printed sternum replacement surgery

It may not be adamantium claws, but the internal prosthetic that a Spanish patient recently received is equally as amazing. Suffering from a chest wall sarcoma, the 54-year-old patient needed to have his sternum and some of his rib cage removed as part of his cancer treatment. To replace this vital part of the skeleton, the surgeons used 3D printing to generate a titanium replacement that would safely replace his original bone.

Instead of a flat plate implant that often loosens over time, the patient’s surgical team at Salamanca University Hospital decided to use a custom-designed 3D implant that would closely model the patient’s natural anatomy. They turned to Anatomics, an Australian medical device company specializing in 3D printing, implants and other biomedical technology, to help them with this task.

Using CT scan data, the scientists at Anatomics were able to reconstruct the patient’s chest wall and tumor, allowing for the precision removal the diseased parts in preparation for the implant. While the surgeons were preparing for surgery, the team at Anatomics used the rapid prototyping of 3D printing to construct the sternum and rib cage in record time. he company used CSIRO’s $1.3 million electron-beam printer to construct the titanium implant one layer at a time. The world’s first 3D printed sternum replacement surgery went smoothly. After 12 days in the hospital, the patient was discharged and is reportedly responding well to the implant post-surgery.

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The biomedical use of 3D printing is still in its infancy, but the technology in on the verge of revolutionizing medicine. Currently, the technology allows doctors to print inexpensive hands ($100) for amputees and affordable prosthetic feet ($15) for children that can be replaced as the child grows. It can even be used to create implants that fuse to a bone and then dissolve once the bone has regenerated. If you are interested in “world’s first” breakthrough achievements, then this area of 3D biomedical printing is one to watch.