By Jason Dorrier
It’s a bit like a Marvel superhero comic or a 70s sci-fi TV show—only it actually just happened. After having his sternum and several ribs surgically removed, a Spanish cancer patient took delivery of one titanium 3D printed rib cage—strong, light, and custom fit to his body.
It’s just the latest example of how 3D printing and medicine are a perfect fit.
The list of 3D printed body parts now includes dental, ankle, spinal, trachea, and even skull implants (among others). Because each body is unique, customization is critical. Medical imaging, digital modeling, and 3D printers allow doctors to fit prosthetics and implants to each person’s anatomy as snugly and comfortably as a well tailored suit.
Titanium chest implants aren’t new, but the complicated geometry of the bone structure makes it difficult to build them. To date, the typically used flat plate implants tend to come loose and raise the risk of complications down the road.In this case, the 54-year-old patient suffered from chest wall sarcoma, a cancer of the rib cage. His doctors determined they would need to remove his sternum and part of several ribs and replace them with a prosthetic sternum and rib cage.
Now, we can do better. We have the technology.
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