3D printing is beginning to really prove itself as an operating room tool in hospitals around the globe. So far it has only caught on in a small percentage of hospitals mostly within a few select countries, with the United States and China seemingly leading the way. Without a doubt though, within a a few years time, 3D printers will be commonplace within hospitals everywhere.
One 21-year-old university student in China, named Xiao Wang, was guilty of doing something that many of us do on occasion. He was walking around playing with his cell phone, not paying attention to where he was going, when he accidentally fell directly on his wrist, causing a significant injury. When taken to the Wuhan Puren Hospital, in the Central China province of Hubei, doctors did a CT scan on his wrist discovering that not only had he fractured his right hamate bone, but he also had broken his fourth metacarpel. For those of you unfamiliar with these bones, the fourth metacarpel is the bone on the top of your hand that connects to your ring finger, while the hamate is a tiny little bone that makes up the wrist, located just below this fourth metacarpel (see image).
This caused a significant problem for orthopedic surgeon Liu Rong, who could not accurately see the exact breaks of both these bones on traditional x-rays and CT scans. Since the breaks were so close together the surgery seemed nearly impossible. There was hope though, as Liu Rong and his team decided to utilize 3D printing in order to more accurately assess the damage to Wang’s right wrist.
This allowed the surgeon to tailor a surgery specifically to Wang’s injury, using the 3D printed wrist model as a perfect guide in doing so. The model allowed for much improved accuracy on behalf of the surgeon, as well as much reduced surgery time for Wang, who did not need to be under anesthesia nearly as long as he would have if the surgery would have been attempted via traditional means.
Surgeon Liu Rong said that such a fracture, like the one experienced by Wang, normally could be overlooked, and if it were not to be repaired, the patient would have life-long pain in his/her hand, as well as a loss of functionality to the hand itself. Prior to the use of 3D printing, this may have been the prognosis for Wang.
This is just one more shining example of why 3D printing will make such a huge impact, not just in the fields of manufacturing, but in that of medical technology as well. As for Wang, he is expected to make a full recovery, and probably will be more responsible when using his cell phone in the future.
What do you think about this incredible use of 3D printing technology in order to repair an extremely complicated wrist/hand fracture? Discuss in the 3D printed surgical wrist model forum thread on 3DPB.com.