3D printers have been in the news a lot over the last few weeks, mostly thanks to the advent of 3D-printed guns and NASA's investment in 3D-printed food. Today brings a different word of a different kind of 3D-printed product.
According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors from the University of Michigan used a 3D-printed airway splint to help a baby breathe. The NEMD says the patient was suffering from tracheobronchomalacia, which manifests with dynamic airway collapse and respiratory insufficiency and is apparently difficult to treat. The doctors custom-designed and custom-fabricated resorbable airway splint that was fabricated from polycaprolactone using a 3D-printer. The biodegradable polyester splint will prevent a collapsed airway while simultaneously allowing flexion, extension, and expansion with growth. According to the New England Medical Journal, they began taking the baby off mechanical ventilation after a week. Within three weeks, ventilator support was discontinued completely. After roughly three years, the splint will have been reabsorbed and the patient's trachea will be strong enough to not need any additional support.
This isn't the first medical use of 3D printing. In February of last year, Belgian and Dutch scientists at the University of Hasselt (Belgium) successfully replaced the lower jaw of an 83-year-old woman with a 3D printed model fashioned out of titanium. The surgery was done to treat a bad infection and the patient recovered much quicker from the implant surgery than she would have had she had a more traditional surgery.