When it comes to 3D printing, it seems like small tidbits of history are being made all the time, as the “first of its kind” feats continue to roll in. Medical news is some of the most uplifting of all the 3D printing applications, because longstanding problems are being solved with high-quality solutions offered by this expanding technology.
Consider Australia. Recently the Land Down Under has made a little bit of 3D printed medical history by implanting its first 3D printed prosthetic titanium jaw into a man. 32 year-old Richard Stratton was the lucky recipient of the jaw, which is a first for Australia but not the first of its kind internationally. In 2012, an 83 year old woman, who suffered from chronic bone infection, received a 3D printed jaw in the Netherlands. This is Australia’s first successful attempt with the technology when it comes to a jaw implant.
Stratton reports having jaw problems ever since he suffered a bad knock to it as a child, which had him missing the left joint that connects the jaw to the skull. He was beginning to have problems chewing and moving his jaw, and he grew unable to fully open his mouth. Dr.George Dimitroulis, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, took an interest in Stratton’s case and designed a prosthesis prototype that experts at Melbourne University’s mechanical engineering department tested and refined. Dimitroulis claims that this is most likely the first 3D printed prosthesis that incorporates both a titanium part and a 3D printed plastic jaw joint. This design protects the skull from a metal joint that would rub and erode into the cranial cavity.
Stratton is very excited about being the “guinea pig” for this first of its kind medical breakthrough jaw joint. He explains that 3D printing’s ability for precise customization is quite a comfort:
“They have a 3D model of my skull and the fact that they’ve made the joint to fit that perfectly, I feel a lot safer in knowing that it’s not just a factory made, off-the-shelf joint.”
It took over three years to prepare the jaw part for implantation: moving from design to prototyping and testing the part so that it would not be rejected took some time. 3D Medical, a Port Melbourne firm, used heated, fused, and layered powdered titanium to print the prosthesis. Also, a plastic model of Stratton’s skull was printed, based on CT scan images, and then the titanium part was refined to provide a perfect fit. Dr Nigel Finch, chairman of 3D Medical, said 30 versions of the part were printed during the customization process. But he predicts that future projects like this will take far less time. The first time is always the hardest!
All of this hard work and waiting appears to have paid off. One month after the surgery, Stratton reports a wide range of jaw motion and an ability to open his mouth wider than before the surgery. You can also see the cosmetic changes in Stratton’s appearance in the “before and after” photos here.
This successful 3D printed jaw prosthesis is great 3D printing medical news coming from Down Under, and it will no doubt lead to a new era for Australia where technology and medicine intersect for the benefit of all. Let’s hear your thoughts on this medical application for 3D printing. Discuss in the 3D Printed Titanium Jaw forum thread on 3DPB.com.