A 3D printer-created lower jaw has been surgically transplanted to an 83-year-old woman's face. Doctor's claim it to be the first operation of its kind.
The operation was carried out in the Netherlands last June to treat the woman's osteomyelitis (bone infection) of almost the entire lower jawbone. Doctors wanted to avoid traditional reconstructive surgery because of the woman's age and other factors. The operation took 4-hours, about 1/5th of the time required for traditional reconstructive surgery. The patient was discharged after 4-days.
Dr. Jules Poukens from Hasselt University, who led the surgical team said,
"Shortly after waking up from the anesthesia the patient spoke a few
words, and the day after the patient was able to swallow again."
This implant was made out of titanium powder. A high precision laser beam was used to melt successive thin layers of titanium powder that were fused together one layer at a time, without using glue or binder liquid. It took 33 layers to build 1mm of height. The implant has articulated joints, cavities to promote muscle attachment and grooves to direct the regrowth of nerves and veins. This implant was built by the Belgian company LayerWise in collaboration with scientists from the University of Hasselt.
It only took a few hours to print once the design was ready. Ruben Wauthle, LayerWise's medical applications engineer said, "Once we received the 3D digital design, the part was split up automatically into 2D layers and then we sent those cross sections to the printing machine."
A follow-up surgery is scheduled later this month during which the team will remove healing implants inserted into holes built into the implant's surface. A specially made dental bridge will then be attached to the part and false teeth will be screwed into the holes to provide a set of dentures.
The success of this operation paves the way for the use of more 3D-printed patient-specific parts.