Tag Archives: surgeory

Computer model, next to the finished part of the lower jaw. (c) Layerwise

Surgery replaces woman’s jaw with a 3D printed titanium one

Hailed as a breakthrough in reconstructive surgery, an 83-year old woman had her lower jaw replaced by an exact 3D printed replica made out of titanium. The implant was made by heating and fusing together titanium ore, one layer at a time with a laser. The procedure took place last summer in the Netherlands, but only recently became public.

Computer model, next to the finished part of the lower jaw. (c) Layerwise

Computer model, next to the finished part of the lower jaw. (c) Layerwise

Usually, reconstructive surgery, such as the one the elderly woman would have had to go through were it not for this alternative, is extremely complex and laborious, typically requiring 20 hours of surgery, coupled with up to four weeks of hospitalization. Due to her old age, this was dubbed too risky, and instead the surgeons at the Biomedical Research Institute at Hasselt University in Belgium decided to opt for this innovative and novel technology.

After the design of the jaw was delivered as an exact replica of the one to be replaced, it only took a few hours for it to be printed, as a laser fussed thousands of layers together. The implant mimics all the complex feature of the original lower jaw – articulated joints, cavities to promote muscle attachment and grooves to direct the regrowth of nerves and veins. After the print was ready, it was given a bioceramic coating. At the end, it only weighed 30 grams more than the original bone structure.

It only took a few hours of surgery and four days of hospital care, a fifth of the current required recovery time. A follow-up procedure will commence soon, as doctors need to remove healing implants inserted into holes built into the implant’s surface and attach a dental bridge, such that fake teeth can be screwed on to provide a set of dentures.

“Shortly after waking up from the anaesthetics the patient spoke a few words, and the day after the patient was able to swallow again,” said Dr Jules Poukens from Hasselt University, who led the surgical team.

“The new treatment is a world premiere because it concerns the first patient-specific implant in replacement of the entire lower jaw.”

This remarkable breakthrough only goes to show how 3D printing can grow to become indispensable to surgery in the future. Broken limbs, entire structures that need to be replaced, can be fully customized and replaced easily. The reduced waiting time as a result of reduced procedure time, means that even more people can now benefit from surgeries faster, reducing risks and allowing them to return to their families a lot sooner. And these are just bones.

LayerWise, a specialized metal-parts manufacturer, which offered the necessary technology to 3D print the jaw, claims that print body organs ready for transplant, however such a feat might not be possible during our lifetimes.

“There are still big biological and chemical issues to be solved,” said Ruben Wauthle, LayerWise’s medical applications engineer,.

“At the moment we use metal powder for printing. To print organic tissue and bone you would need organic material as your ‘ink’. Technically it could be possible – but there is still a long way to go before we’re there.”

Amplify, a product used in spinal surgery, that act as carriers for bone morphogenetic protein-2 as well as a scaffold for new bone formation.

Spinal implant causes cancer, medical company tries to cover it up

Medtronics is a medical tech behemoth worth $15 billion. Among other cutting edge medical tech and R&D SciFi prototypes, the company is responsible for manufacturing a wide range of pacemakers, anti-seizure gadgets along with a number of surgery machinery. One of their most successful products in the last decade is a spinal implant that alleviates people suffering of serious back pain, at a hefty cost it seems – cancer.

Amplify, a product used in spinal surgery, that act as carriers for bone morphogenetic protein-2 as well as a scaffold for new bone formation.

Amplify, a product used in spinal surgery, that act as carriers for bone morphogenetic protein-2 as well as a scaffold for new bone formation.

The tiny device is implanted via surgery between vertebrates to correct irregularities in the spine including scoliosis, kyphosis, disc herniation or vertebral fracture. The implant held much promise, since before it came into practice a similar procedure required  an extra surgery to get replacement bone from the patient’s hip or rely on a donor bone for it to be effective. Instead, the products Infuse (in production since 2002) and Amplify (unapproved), get the same results or better by use of a bone growth stimulating biological agent known as bone morphogenetic protein-2, or BMP-2.

In 2009, Medtronics paid millions of dollars for an investigation by surgeons whose purpose was to assess whether the product was safe or not. No safety hazards were found as a result of this extensive medical trial. An independent research however, sparked by various frightening stories in journals, showed that after two or three years from the implant with the genetically engineered protein, the number of patients diagnosed with cancer dramatically increased. The original 2009 paper authors, which were funded with millions by Medtronics, defended themselves by stating that at the time they published the report there were no signs that would allow them to correlate the implants with cancer.

Revenue from Infuse has been about $700 million annually since coming on the market in 2002. Amplify has yet to be approved, but Medtronics is constantly appealing the decision. Clearly there’s a serious conflict of interest at hand.

“There is no question that BMP has biological effects that we don’t fully understand,” said Raj Rao, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the 2010 FDA advisory panel on Amplify.

Much of these finds have been exposed by the extraordinary display of investigative journalism of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which published an exhaustive piece on the controversial subject, after digging in through more 1,000 pages of FDA document and recruiting qualified physicians to aid.