Cancer patient receives 3D printed titanium sternum and ribs in world-first surgery

By midian182 ยท 14 replies
Sep 11, 2015
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  1. A cancer patient in Spain has received the world’s first custom, 3D-printed titanium sternum and ribcage implant. The technology was developed in Australia by scientists at CSIRO's 3D printing facility in conjunction with medical device company Anatomics.

    The 54-year-old man suffered from a chest wall sarcoma, a type of cancerous tumor that, in this case, had grown around his sternum and part of the ribcage. To rid him of the tumor completely, surgeons needed to remove the affected bones.

    The complex geometry of a ribcage makes the area notoriously difficult to replace with prosthetics. Often a flat titanium plate is used in these cases to reinforce what is left of the area, but these can come loose and cause further complications. The team, from the Salamanca University Hospital in Spain, decided the best option would be to use a fully customized 3D-printed sternum and ribcage.

    The hospital commissioned Melbourne-based Anatomics, who designed and manufactured the implant utilizing CSIRO’s 3D printing facility, Lab 22. Using high resolution CT data, the team was able to create a 3D reconstruction of the chest wall and tumor, allowing the surgeons to plan and accurately define resection margins. "From this, we were able to design an implant with a rigid sternal core and semi-flexible titanium rods to act as prosthetic ribs attached to the sternum," said Andrew Batty, CEO of Anatomics.

    The implant was then printed out on the $1 million Arcam printer which built up the sternum and ribcage layer-by-layer using an electron beam that melts metal powder into a 3D object. After creating the implant, it was couriered to Spain for the surgery. It has been two weeks since the operation, and the patient has been discharged and is on the road to recovery.

    Speaking about the procedure, Surgeon José Aranda said: "The operation was very successful. Thanks to 3D printing technology and a unique resection template, we were able to create a body part that was fully customized and fitted like a glove. To our knowledge this is the first 3D titanium printed sternum [made through] custom-made processes. And, of course, for me the main important thing is the excellent functional and cosmetic results we have obtained."

    A large number of 3D printed prosthetics and medical implants have been developed recently; last month, a UK man created a 3D printed robotic hand that can be made much cheaper and faster than current prosthetic limbs.

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  2. 9Nails

    9Nails TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,215   +177

    Well that might make flying a bit annoying with all the metal detectors. But I'd take a titanium check over a short life any day. I'm very happy to hear that medicine is making these sorts of advancements. I'm happy to hear this man is out of the hospital and recovering too. Congrats to all involved.
    tomkaten and midian182 like this.
  3. noel24

    noel24 TS Evangelist Posts: 356   +203

    I'd Buy That For a Dollar!
  4. Business Direct

    Business Direct TS Booster Posts: 44

    I suppose an MRI is out of the question now.
  5. noel24

    noel24 TS Evangelist Posts: 356   +203

    Why? Titanium is non-magnetic? Actually, stainless steel used in surgery should be also non magnetic, although I wouldn't bet 100% on it. I would rather want to know if regular Xray can irradiate medical implants?
  6. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,974   +2,527

    I'm not sure how you came to this conclusion. "Steel", is iron with carbon added. And "stainless steel", very often has nickel as an alloying agent. Nickel is also a magnetic metal.

    I checked this with my stainless steel sink basin, and a stainless cook's knife in my kitchen. A refrigerator magnet stuck to both like glue.

    Although, other metals used in stainless alloys, such as chrome and vanadium, can't be magnetized, or if so, only with some difficulty.

    As Wiki is prone to do, here is way too much information on the topic:
  7. noel24

    noel24 TS Evangelist Posts: 356   +203

    Well, when I was younger, read Tom Clancy, and generally took interest in military hardware, I read about 'degaussing' submarines or using nonferromagnetic steel for building them. I just assumed that medical equipement would be made from degaussed stainless steel for the purpose of safety, or just so for the patient to not pickup alien radio transmitions...
  8. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,974   +2,527

    Which is why I only skimmed that Wiki article. You can apparently remove all trace of magnetism though heat treating. Whether that's a 100% for all time kill or not,.I didn't get that far.

    A degaussing coil used to be standard equipment for TV repairmen. It used to be like voodoo trying to get rid of the off color magnetic patches in CRTs. To this day I'm not sure if you had to mumble an incantation along with waving the coil around or not....:confused:
  9. Haring

    Haring TS Rookie

    Thats a great great techonology to Human Kind who were suffering from this worst & critical dieseses like Cancer,etc ., from many many centuries till now, by implanting now the latest 3d printed titanium-sternum. I congratulate the Whole Team right from the Scientists,Researchers,Doctors,etc., who are all involved in this newly invented 3d Printing Techonology for medical purposes.I desire to wish All the Best To The Future Discoveries to making viable to the poor people. More than 50% mentally die by visting Hospital too often for regular Check-ups/Tests,I believe this new techonolgy may help greatly Human kind by cutting down frequent visits to Hospital.
  10. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,974   +2,527

    I wonder how advancements like this will price out, and how that might affect health insurance costs overall.

    Don't get me wrong, I think we should try to make everybody live forever, expenses be damned.

    I do often wonder though, where the food will come from, as all everybody seems to want to do these days, is play video games, write apps for smart phones, and drive for Uber part time. :confused:

    I am however, thoroughly impressed with successful 3D printing, in a high melt point material such as titanium.
  11. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

    It is great to see where medicine is going. Now this is what 3D printing should be used for--to save lives.
  12. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +136

    The catch though is that if there is a magnetic capability (ferrous) to the metal, then being put into a massive magnet (MRI) will magnetize it. You can take regular items like say a screwdriver, run a magnet around it and it will magnetize it. Reverse the process and you can also demagnetize it. Still, you do not want to be inside a magnet when a part of something inside your body becomes magnetized and affected by the outside force. Hence no-joy when metals and MRIs come together.

    However, with Titanium, there is no problem with the MRI. I have MS myself and get two MRIs a year and now am looking at a large spinal fusion and they stated they use Titanium for the purpose of not interfering with the MRIs. Not stainless steel. Other non ferrous metals (though not appropriate for skeletal replacement necessarily) include Aluminum, Copper, Brass and Silver.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  13. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,974   +2,527

    Um, I think you got the wrong guy to be quoting here. I'm well aware that "stainless steel" is capable of being magnetized, and some other metals, principally nickel and cobalt, can be categorized as, "ferromagnetic".

    My own doctor, erring on the side of caution, was reluctant to prescribe an MRI for me, due to a replacement aortic valve. While the, "after market part", in this case is made from "pyrolytic carbon", I suppose it's better to be safe than sorry, and run this risk of having you heart shut down by a massive dose of magnetism. Although, since it's made of carbon, I would think that put it into the "stealth category", of materials.

    One enigma is "alnico", (which some people cleverly spell, "AlNiCo"), fusing the elemental symbols for aluminum, nickel, & cobalt. The stuff makes the very best loudspeaker magnets, in spite of (?), or because of(?), the aluminum in the alloy. I'm not quite clear on which.

    A couple of points of interest, mechanics, (such as I once was), routinely use the magnetizing the screwdriver trick, to permit having small steel screws stay on the driver, while it is being jockeyed into position.

    OTOH, many of the screwdrivers in the TV repairman's tool kit, were often made of nylon, so as to not interfere with electrical characteristics of various adjustable potentiometers, variable capacitors, choke coils, or what have you.

    We used to have mechanical watches sold as "anti-magnetic", which gives one pause to wonder about the backstory there.

    As for the list of non ferrous metals you've listed as "not appropriate for skeletal replacement necessarily) include Aluminum, Copper, Brass and Silver", they're all highly susceptible to corrosion, particularly from halogens. As you likely know, chlorine is a halogen. It's also half of sodium chloride, and we're pretty much big bags of salt water. So yeah, they pretty much sound like very bad ideas, right from the jump.

    For some other interesting trivia, the CIA had to setup shell corporations to buy titanium from Russia (!) the world's largest source)), in order to obtain enough to allow the SR-71 program to come to fruition.

    Me? I'm simply impressed that metals, (high melt point metals specifically), can now be 3D printed. A Little scared as well, since while I don't think the accuracy of the titanium implant in question is of, "weapons grade", we may be approaching the point where every nickel bag heroin & crack dealer, will have access to a printer capable of turning out those ever popular "9 mils"! :eek:

    Hey, could happen, right?
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2015
  14. infiltrator

    infiltrator TS Booster Posts: 164   +27

    This is the reason why I like and believe in Science and Technology so much. They both have so much potential.....
    NightAngel79 likes this.
  15. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +136

    I didn't quote you, I quoted noel24... Point is that even degaussed metals can be re-magnetized. There-for using specifically non-ferrous metals is usually necessary today to allow MRIs.

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