Already a must-have in med tech research labs, 3-D printing has been sweeping into medical practice. Now it's in a cancer patient's hip.
|A diagram of the pelvis from Gray's Anatomy--Public domain|
A male patient in his 60s suffered from a rare form of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. The man had to have part of his pelvis removed to stop the cancer's spread. Craig Gerrand, a consultant orthopedic surgeon at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust used the hospital's 3-D printer to fabricate a replacement out of titanium powder fused together with a laser, The Telegraph reports.
Coated with a mineral onto which new bone can grow, the titanium pelvis was implanted using a standard hip replacement.
So much of the patient's bone needed removing that nothing would have been left to which surgeons could attach an implant, Gerrand told The Telegraph.
According to the report, the patient is now able to walk with the aid of a cane.
Implants made with 3-D printers aren't new in the operating room. In 2012, Belgian orthopedic surgeons worked with a 3-D printing company on what at the time they called "the world's first patient-specific implant of the entire lower jaw," according to the BBC. Last May, doctors at the University of Michigan described in the New England Journal of Medicine how they implanted a 3-D-printed tracheal splint to save the life of an infant with tracheobronchomalacia, a rare breathing disorder. In the same month, Princeton University engineers announced the 3-D printing of a bionic ear.
The hearing aid and dental industries may be far ahead. There, dentists and device makers are well acquainted with the uses of 3-D printing to make patient-specific devices. According to 3-D printer manufacturer EnvisionTEC, the hearing aid industry may now have the largest installed base of custom consumer devices made using 3-D printers.