An Australian 3D printed rib cage has been implanted in a New York patient

The ribcage. Image: CSIRO

A titanium and polymer sternal and rib cage, 3D printed using Australian technology, has been implanted in a patient in a New York.

It is the first time the technology has been used in the US and only the second time in the world that a 3D-printed composite sternum and ribcage has been implanted.

Penelope Heller, who was diagnosed with the rare bone cancer chondrosarcoma in 2014, had to have her cancer affected sternum removed.

Her surgeon fashioned a replacement sternum and ribcage using off-the-shelf solutions and while the procedure effectively removed the cancer, ongoing pain and problems breathing made life unpleasant.

Image: CSIRO

The 20-year-old American had further surgery in August this year to replace her implant with a customised sternum and partial ribcage made from 3D printed titanium.

The replacement part was created using technology in a partnership between CSIRO and Australian medical device company Anatomics. PoreStar technology, a unique porous polyethylene material providing bone-like architecture, was used.

3D printing allows for personalisation of implants for a unique fit as well as rapid manufacture, which could mean the difference between life and death for a patient waiting for surgery.

“I’m proud of our work with Anatomics that has enabled patients around the world to lead normal lives,” says CSIRO’s director of manufacturing, Keith McLean.

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