When an 83 year-old Belgian woman had a seriously infected jaw, a 3D printer came to the rescue. When aren't 3D printers coming to the rescue these days?
The woman was too old to go through reconstructive surgery so researchers turned to the 3D printing option as a way to reduce the trauma she would have to undergo. The surgery, performed last June, took a mere four hours compared to upwards of 20 hours a reconstructive surgery would take.
Recovery time was dramatically shortened as well, with the woman starting to talk and swallow just a day after the surgery when traditional reconstructive surgery would have kept her in the hospital from two to four weeks.
Researchers at Belgium's University of Hasselt, say it's the first time an entire lower jaw has been replaced with a printed implant. This may lead you to wonder how do they print a medical-grade jaw?
In this case the 3D printer put down layers of titanium powder while a computer-controlled laser makes sure the right particles are fused. The mandible was then given a bio-ceramic coating that was compatible with the patient's tissue. Incredibly, the 3D printing process uses less materials so time was saved in that area as well.
It's an all around win for a patient who didn't have the time to wait.
The kind of results achieved in this case seem promising for the future of 3D printing as a medical application. At this rate it seems there is nothing these printers can't do.