3D printing that saved a life

We’ve seen the stories of 3D printing being used for producing guns. Here’s a story about 20-month old baby being saved because of a 3D printed device that restored the child’s breathing.

In what is being called a medical first, doctors at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., built a bioresorbable splint for a the child that help stop life-threatening tracheobronchomalacia. Basically the child each day stopped breathing because of a collapsed bronchus. This breakthrough custom splint was created by a 3D laser printer. The hospital is not saying who the manufacturer was, but the story is a positive case study for 3D printing after a litany of negative ones on gun control.

According to the mother of the 20-month old boy named Kaiba, some doctors said the child would not leave the hospital alive. Tracheobronchomalacia is rare and about one in 2,200 babies are born with it.

The custom-design splint was created by Dr. Glenn Green, M.D., associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Michigan and his colleague Dr. Scott Hollister, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and associate professor of surgery at the same university.

The splint acts as an airway expanding the bronchus and can grow with the child. The device will eventually dissolve into the body. The splint was created from a computer-aided design scan of Kaiba’s trachea/bronchus. That image was then transmitted to a laser-based 3D printer, which produced the splint.

With the airway splint in place, Kaiba came off the ventilator and has not had any trouble breathing.

This can be the start of more 3-D body parts that surgeons can use on patients such as ears, noses, spines, and other large bones.

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