The benefits that the healthcare sector has reaped from incorporating 3D printing into their system are tremendous. At the Peking University, China the orthopedic department has recently announced that they have successfully implanted artificial vertebrae into the spinal cord of a 12 years old boy who was suffering from a malignant tumor which was located in his spinal cord. A lot of clinical trials and tests were conducted before these 3D printed vertebrae were used in human bodies. After long hours of specialized spinal cord surgery the doctors replaced the cancerous section with a 3D printed piece. Dr. Lui Zhongjun, the director of the Orthopedic department said that the team is very optimistic that the implant will work just fine as all of the patients who had received implants last year were recovering very well.

The making of these implants is similar to the method of 3D printing objects from a standard printer. As it is a known concept that in 3D printing the objects are created in layers. In this case instead of polymers, titanium powder was placed in layers to make the final object. Titanium is considered to be a traditional orthopedic implants material. This method will also eliminate the usage of the traditional implants which needed to be attached to the bone with the help of cement or screws because the shapes of the implants were usually geometric and they were not comfortable.

Lui’s team started this venture in 2009 and the designs for the implants were based on their clinical experience and the understanding about implants that they had. A medical device company digitalized their designs for 3D printing. In 2010, the team used these implants on animals such as sheep, after the trials proved to be safe clinical tests were conducted on human in 2012.

Image Credit: Michael Dorausch (flickrhandle: chiropractic)