A cancer patient in Spain has received a 3D-printed chest prosthetic made of lightweight titanium in a first-of-its-kind surgery. It consists of a sternum and parts of a ribcage specifically designed to fit the man’s chest after certain sections had to be removed because of a tumor. The patient was discharged 12 days after surgery, and he’s been recovering well.
The 54-year-old patient’s surgical team at Salamanca University Hospital thought a customized, 3D-printed prosthetic would be the best option because the sarcoma growing around his ribcage meant they’d have to replace a significant portion of his chest – a part that’s notoriously tricky to recreate. Its complex geometry meant a prosthetic would have to be tailored specifically for the patient. Flat plates and screws made of titanium have previously been implanted by thoracic surgeons, but these can loosen over time, causing complications and possibly reoperations. This prosthetic, however, has been designed for long-term fixation.
Using high-resolution CT scanning, a team at the medical device company Anatomics produced a 3D reconstruction of the patient’s chest wall and the tumor. "We were able to design an implant with a rigid sternal core and semi-flexible titanium rods to act as prosthetic ribs attached to the sternum," Anatomics CEO Andrew Batty said in a statement. This also allowed surgeons to plan how they would proceed and to define the resection margins.
Australia’s CSIRO then printed the sternum and ribcage using surgical grade titanium alloy. "The printer works by directing an electron beam at a bed of titanium powder in order to melt it," CSIRO’s Alex Kingsbury explains. "This process is then repeated, building the product up layer-by-layer until you have a complete implant."
The procedure is described in the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery.
Image in the text: Anatomics