Chinese doctors have successfully implanted a 3D-printed titanium alloy sternum into a woman to replace her tumor-affected breastbone, which is the first such operation in the country.
The 54-year-old patient, surnamed Gu, has been recovering without complications since the surgery in late June at Tangdu Hospital affiliated with the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province.
A retired worker in Luoyang city, of Henan province, Gu was diagnosed with a sternum tumor last year. The tumor was six to seven cm in diameter before the operation, said Wang Xiaoping, a senior thoracic surgeon with the hospital.
Typically, when the sternum is removed, a patient's heart will lose its protection, seriously affecting breathing and safety, said Wang.
Doctors spent half a month designing a sternum for Gu and asked a key laboratory at Northwestern Polytechnic University to print it using 3D technology.
"I feel well now," said Gu at the hospital.
Doctors around the world have increasingly turned to 3D printing. Last month, the technology helped doctors in Shanghai separate three-month-old twin sisters who were conjoined at the hip.