In an operation believed to be the first of its kind in the world, surgeons at the Shanghai Changzheng Hospital have replaced a portion of a woman’s spine with metal 3D printed vertebrae.
The operation was conducted to intervene in a rare case of cancer that affects cartilage cells, and reports say the patient is recovering well.
A case of chondrosarcoma
Shanghai Changzheng Hospital is the largest facility in China dedicated to treatment of the spine. Dr. Xiao Jianru is a chief physician at the hospital, and was in charge of the operation on 28 year old patient Xiao Wen.
The chondrosarcoma tumor affected six segments of Wen’s vertebra, spanning 5.5 inches of the spine.
Located at the top of the back, the tumor was mapped using x-rays. From these images Dr. Jianru and his team 3D printed a physical model of the affected area and used it to plan removal of the tumor.
The spine-saving implant
Though spinal implants are one of the most popular medical devices for 3D printing, this treatment required a bespoke approach.
Using the 3D printed plastic model as a frame, Dr. Jianru’s team designed a new implant to replace the six diseased vertebrae. The implant was 3D printed in titanium.
Reports say Wen is “in good condition”
In total the procedure took three weeks of planning, and thirteen hours in theater shared over two days. On the first day, surgeons used the time to carefully remove the tumor without incision to the arteries.
After a week of recovery, Wen entered theater for the second time. In this instance, the metal 3D printed spinal implant was added.
Now in recovery, a report from The Paper, says Wen is “in good condition” and able to walk on her own, though neck movements are still restricted.
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Featured image: 3D printed model of Xiao Wen’s tumor and the 3D printed metal implant used to replace the vertebrae. Photo via People’s Daily Online