A 54-year-old cancer patient has a new lease on life thanks to the world’s first 3D-printed titanium sternum and rib cage. The life-saving implant was made by three leading medical technology groups in Australia. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), medical device company Anatomics and medical-grade 3D printers Lab 22 banded together to print the partial rib cage layer by layer. Once printing was complete, the piece was shipped by courier half a world away to Spain and successfully implanted.
The Spanish patient was suffering from a chest wall sarcoma, which infected only certain sections of his sternum and ribs and caused a large tumor that needed to be removed. Because of the curvature and three dimensional nature of the sternum and ribs, traditionally used flat and plate implants were not the ideal choice, as they could come loose over time with natural movement. The doctors turned to CSIRO to devise a new solution.
CSIRO’s recently celebrated successes with projects such as a 3d-printed heel bone, 3d-printed mouth guard for sleep apnea and an impressive 3d-printed jet engine made them an obvious choice for the project. With help from Anatomics, who created the design file, and Lab 22, who printed the piece, they were able to further medical 3d-printing once again. The partial rib cage and sternum was printed on the Arcam electron beam metal 3d printer.
The piece was designed to fit over the patient’s remaining bone and held in securely with screws. The major surgery was not only successful, but the patient was able to go home after just 12 days of recovery.