Tracheobronchomalacia is a rare condition where the trachea is weak due to soft cartilage in a certain area or throughout the trachea – and sufferers have extreme difficulty breathing due to the condition.
Garrett Peterson, born in 2012, is one of those afflicted. Garrett’s windpipe would suddenly collapse leaving him gasping for breath. And it happened every day, sometimes several times.
“He’d be fine and then all of a sudden start turning blue,” says his father, Jake Peterson. “It was just like watching your child suffocate over and over again.”
The recommended treatment for the condition is surgery to correct the weakened trachea. In Garrett’s case, however, he’d been confined to intensive care since birth, and only a year ago, his team of physicians was unsure he’d live to see another.
Fate intervened when the Petersons discovered that doctors at the University of Michigan had used 3D printers to create a “splint” they used to treat the weakened windpipe condition in a child like Garrett.
Garrett had spent the first 18 months of his life hooked up to ventilators, and his condition rendered him delicate to the point that his parents were afraid to hold him. Even changing his diapers could lead to a suffocating moment.
But surgeons at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan implanted the 3D printed device which opened up Garrett’s airways, and as a result, Christmas is a very different experience this year at the Peterson household in Utah.
The story marks the second time a young life has been saved with this new, bioresorbable implant developed by Glenn Green, M.D., associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology, and Scott Hollister, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and an associate professor of surgery.
The condition the process repaired, called tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve, meant Garrett’s airways would collapse to the point where they became nothing more than thin slits.
Green and Hollister had gotten emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to create and implant their tracheal splint for the first patient saved by the procedure. Made from a biopolymer known as polycaprolactone, the splints are sewn around the airway to expand the bronchus and provide temporary support as a child grows. With the FDA’s approval, Garrett had his surgery scheduled for January 31, 2014.
Over the course of about the next three years, due to the nature of the material the doctors used, the splint itself will be absorbed by Garrett’s body. The custom-fabricated device was built using high-resolution imaging and computer-aided design data collected via CT scans.
“We know the splint has been opening up the way that we wanted,” Green says. “At this point, we’re just waiting for further growth to happen and for the splint to eventually dissolve. It’s just the most rewarding thing for a physician to see somebody that had never been home from the hospital now able to enjoy the holidays.”
And Natalie Peterson can breathe again as well.
“We’re just so, so excited to have him home and to be able to, you know, spend Christmas morning in our pajamas — just hanging out in our family room,” Natalie told NPR. “It’s going to be great.”
It’s a whole new world for patients who once suffered from conditions for which there was no easy solution, and 3D printing technology is extending their lives and making them more comfortable. What do you think about how 3D printing will impact medical procedures in the future? Let us know about how 3D printing is having an impact on medicine and what you see happening in the future in the 3D Printed Christmas Miracle forum thread at 3DPB.com. Check out the video describing Garrett’s condition below:
You May Also Like
Researchers Use Autodesk Ember 3D Printer to Characterize 3D Printed Lenses
In the recently published ‘Characterization of 3D printed lenses and diffraction gratings made by DLP additive manufacturing,’ international researchers studied digital fabrication of optical parts using DLP 3D printing. Examining...
Germanium, Silica & Titanium Lend Stability to 3D Printing Optical Glass
In the recently published ‘Sol-Gel Based Nanoparticles for 3D Printing of Optical Glass,’ Peter Palencia and Koroush Sasan of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are innovating further in the realm of...
Lithuanian Startup Dear Deer Eyewear Offers Bespoke 3D Printed Eyeglasses Online
Because I was really into Barbies at age 6 when I first got prescription lenses, my very first pair of eyeglasses were huge and bright pink…I shudder to look at...
Interview with Formalloy’s Melanie Lang on Directed Energy Deposition
When I met Melanie Lang at RAPID a lot of the buzz on the show floor was directed at her startup Formalloy. Formalloy has developed a metal deposition head that...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.