A cancer patient was just implanted with the first 3D-printed ribcage

From organs to prosthetic body parts, 3D-printing has become a powerful tool for medicine.

And now, for the first time ever, doctors have implanted a 3D-printed titanium sternum and ribs inside a 54-year-old cancer patient in Spain.

The man suffered from chest wall sarcoma, which is a cancerous tumour that grows around the chest wall. Part of the patient’s skeleton had to be removed to get the tumour completely out, so the doctors at Salamanca University Hospital turned to 3D printing to replace the missing part of the skeleton.

The medical team worked with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Anatomics, an Australian medical device company to create the sternum implant.

High-resolution CT scans of the patient’s chest enabled Anatomics to design a replica of the patient’s missing sternum and ribcage. Anatomics turned to CSIRO, which has a specialised printing laboratory, to print the device.

According to CSIRO’s blog, surgeons typically use a flat and plate implants for the chest, but these can loosen over time and cause complications. The 3D-printed ribcage was proposed as a better option by the surgeons. 

It’s been almost two weeks since the procedure and the patient is recovering well, according to the blog post

3d printed sternum illustrationCSIROHow the implant fit into the patient’s chest.

While 3D printing has carved out a niche in the medical world, it’s beginning to find traction in other industries as well. 

A Chinese construction company has begun building modular homes using 3D-printing and the Arizona-based company Local Motors is using 3D-printing to build electric vehicles

Check out a video by CSIRO about the 3D-printed device below. 

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