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Missing Skull Bone Replaced with 3D Printing

August 11, 2017

3D Printing

3D PrintingOnly a decade ago, the idea of printing parts of the human body through 3D printing was still in the realm of science fiction, according to Dr. Gaurav Gupta, MD, Assistant professor of neurosurgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Director, Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery, at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

But on March 28, he successfully inserted a 3D printed skull implant into patient Christopher Cahill, of New Brunswick, during a four-hour surgery.

In early 2017, Cahill suffered an injury to the frontal lobe that resulted in life-threatening brain swelling. After performing emergency surgery to relieve the swelling, Gupta determined that Cahill’s skull was unusable because of an infection in the skull. Gupta turned to 3D printing as the best solution to replace the missing skull bone.

Through 3D printing, three-dimensional objects are manufactured from a two-dimensional digital file. It has become increasingly popular in the production of medical devices because of its precision and accuracy, according to Gupta.

Gupta collaborated with medical device company DeputSynthese CMS to utilize 3D printing to develop a customized cranial skull implant for Cahill composed of a polymer, or plastic, known as polyetheretherketone (PEEK), which Gupta said was chosen for its strength, stability and biocompatibility.

He said, prior to 3D printing, surgeons used metal mesh to replace pieces of the skull, but it was not as strong or as precise.

“The 3D printed model is an exact and custom fit because it is created using the patient’s CT scan,” Gupta said.

According to Gupta, PEEK is an inert substance that does not cause an inflammatory reaction, there are no known allergies to it, and it is not rejected by the body. The implants are also impact- and fracture-resistant, and do not erode or dissolve.

The patient said that while he was surprised and hopeful when Gupta suggested the use of 3D printing as a way to replace his skull, he had some apprehension.

“I was nervous about what I would look like after the surgery,” Cahill said. “However, I am happy that I look exactly the same and feel like myself again.”

Prior to the surgery, additional skin had to be grown on the patient’s head to cover the implant. Gupta turned to Dr. Tushar Patel, MD, plastic and reconstructive surgeon and partner at The Plastic Surgery Center, in Shrewsbury, to insert a tissue-expander that enabled Cahill to have enough skin for surgery.

Read More at the Source: Imagine: New era of medicine marked by surgically implanted 3D printed skull

by MaryLynn Schiavi, Correspondent

Photo Credit: John Emerson

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