A Beijing University hospital is believed to have performed the world’s first successful spinal operation with a 3D printed implant.
The spinal substitute is a 3D printed titanium mesh tube implanted to reconstruct the spinal link and support between the patient’s chest and abdomen.
Two weeks before the operation, the patient, surnamed Yuan, was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his backbone. The only effective treatment was to remove five sections of his backbone and to replace them with a 19-centimetre artificial substitute.
“For me, I would not have recovered without 3D printing,” said Mr. Yuan.
The orthopedics specialist at the university-affiliated hospital decided to use 3D printing to generate some mesh tubes which allow normal spinal tissues to grow around it and reconstruct the backbone of the patient.
“The titanium mesh tube can be any length, even shorter than 19 centimetres,” explained Dr. Liu Zhongjun, chief orthopedics surgeon at the Beijing University Third Hospital. “3D printing can produce implants of whatever size and shape,”
Mr. Yuan is already walking by himself just days after the implant operation, the hospital said.
Zhongjun is impressed by Yuan’s quick response to the implant and remains confident the technology could be offered to many other patients.
“Our prognosis is that the patient will have a full recovery,” said Dr. Zhongjun.
The 3D implant operation in Beijing is just one initial medical application justifying the China Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the 3D printing technology. The agency approved the 3D printed spinal sections for medical application on May 6. Now the implant operation and the FDA approval have positioned China at the forefront of 3D printing for medical applications.