Chinese Doctors Implant 3D Printed Vertebra In Pediatric Bone Cancer Patient


Surgeons at China’s Peking University No. 3 Hospital have successfully implanted a 3D printed vertebrate in a young boy with bone cancer, a first in orthopedic medicine. The 12-year-old boy injured his neck playing soccer earlier this year, and subsequent tests led to the discovery of  a malignant tumor in his second vertebra.

The boy underwent a procedure to remove the cancerous vertebrate two months ago, and has been slowly recovering since.  With no second vertebra, the boy’s mobility was severely limited. He has been restricted to bed rest and is required to wear an external support frame to reduce pressure on his spine.  Liu Zhongjun, MD and Director of Orthopedics at No. 3 Hospital explains, “Using existing technology, the patient’s head needs to be framed with pins after surgery. The patient’s head cannot touch the bed when he is resting. This lasts for at least three months.”

Zhongjun’s team came up with the idea of implanting a 3D replica of the removed vertebra as a way of expediting the recovery process for the boy. “With 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods," he says.

The surgery to implant the vertebra lasted five hours and involved not only the spine, but the internal and external carotid arteries, and the trachea. The procedure was described as successful, and early results are promising. They boy is still in the early stages of his recovery, but he can already lift and move his head without support.  Doctor’s say he is in good spirits and physical condition, and will fully recover from his operations with time.

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