Melbourne scientists are behind world-first surgery that has seen a Spanish cancer patient fitted with a new set of titanium ribs – created via a 3D printer.
The patient, a 54-year-old man, was suffering from a type of cancerous tumour that grows around the rib cage. His surgical team, knowing that this part of the chest was extremely difficult to recreate with prosthetics, decided that a fully customisable 3D printed sternum and rib cage was the best option.
So the surgeons turned to Melbourne-based medical device company Anatomics, who designed the sternum and ribs that were later brought to life at CSIRO’s 3D printing facility, Lab 22, in Clayton.
After assessing the complexity of the requirements, Anatomics CEO Andrew Batty said the solution lay in metallic 3D printing.
“We wanted to 3D print the implant from titanium because of its complex geometry and design,” Mr Batty said.
“While titanium implants have previously been used in chest surgery, designs have not considered the issues surrounding long term fixation.
“Flat and plate implants rely on screws for rigid fixation that may come loose over time. This can increase the risk of complications and the possibility of re-operation.”
Through high resolution CT data, the Anatomics team was able to create a 3D reconstruction of the chest wall and tumour, 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,” Mr Batty said.
The Anatomics team then worked with experts at CSIRO’s 3D printing facility to manufacture the implant out of surgical grade titanium alloy, using the CSIRO’s $1.3 million Arcam printer.
Dr José Aranda, part of the surgical team from Salamanca University Hospital, said the operation, which took place in Spain and attracted international headlines, was extremely successful.
“Thanks to 3D printing technology and a unique resection template, we were able to create a body part that was fully customised and fitted like a glove,” Dr Aranda.
Meanwhile Australian Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane said the international collaboration was “an impressive example of what can be achieved when industry and science come together”.
“This collaboration crossed disciplines and international boundaries, with a clear benefit for both this individual patient and for surgical practice.”
To read more, visit the CSIRO’s website, or view the government’s media release here.