Medical & Dental

Firefly lights the way for spine surgery with 3D prints

Spinal Elements, the California-based company responsible for helping make medical-grade PEEK plastic the industry standard for spine surgery implants, is working with Mighty Oak Medical’s custom made Firefly Technology. Firefly provides 3D printed guides for surgeons that are designed to match the exact contours of a patient’s vertebrae.

Firefly Technology guides have been used here to help a patient with scoliosis be more active. Screenshot of a 9News report via: Mighty Oak Medical on Youtube
Firefly Technology guides have been used here to help a patient with scoliosis be more active. Screenshot of a 9News report via: Mighty Oak Medical on Youtube

The guides are created using images form a patient’s computed topography (CT) scan, which is rendered in a CAD program, then 3D printed in a plastic that received FDA approval in January of this year. The guides are used to improve a surgeon’s ability to navigate the placement of screws within a spinal-fusion operation. Such an operation is done when bone and tissue in the spinal canal narrow, squeezing nerves or the spinal cord, often the cause of fractures or a condition. Spinal fusion is considered to be major surgery, and often takes several hours to complete. These guides are one solution to help speed up the operation process, improve accuracy and therefore reduce some of the risk and discomfort involved. They also don’t require any intraoperative imaging (iMRI scans) that are not only expensive, but can also cause damage through exposure to radiation.

Screenshot showing how the 3D printed Firefly Technology guides aid with the creation of pilot holes in the bone. Image via: Might Oak Medical
Screenshot showing how the 3D printed Firefly Technology guides aid with the creation of pilot holes in the bone. Image via: Might Oak Medical

Judging by Spinal Elements’ success in the field of spinal surgery, Mighty Oak Medical are in good hands, and this Firefly Technology could yet become a standard practice around the globe. Heidi Frey, President of Mighty Oak Medical, commented the following on the partnership:

 We are excited to partner with Spinal Elements on this technology. We feel confident that once surgeons experience the ease of use and accessibility of the FIREFLY® system, they will gravitate towards predetermined screw sizes and trajectories, implemented with 3D printed patient-specific guides, as a preferred course of treatment for their patients. Spinal Elements, being a technology leader, is a natural partner choice for us to market this technology.

Spinal Elements is currently exhibiting Firefly Technology at the North American Spine Society (NASS) Annual Show in Boston, running until Saturday the 29th October. It is the second company to be exhibiting 3D printing technology that we at 3DPI have come across.  Medical giants Stryker are also exhibiting their 3D printed Tritanium lumbar support cages at the show. If any of our readers are there this week be sure to Tweet us your thoughts.

Featured image is a motto taken from Mighty Oak Medical’s website. It reads: ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail.’ – Benjamin Franklin and ‘Building a house requires a blueprint. So should spine surgery.’

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