3-Year-Old with Extremely Large Head Receives Groundbreaking Skull Replacement Surgery

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skull6Surgeons and medical experts in China really seem to be on a roll lately when it comes to 3D printing medical implants. Over the past few weeks we’ve reported on several very impressive surgeries that have taken place thanks to 3D printed titanium implants. However, none of these come close to comparing to the latest surgery performed at the Second People’s Hospital of Hunan Province in China, on a 3-year-old little girl named Han Han.

Han Han, who had a condition known as congenital hydrocephalus, which causes a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, originating at birth, was known by her friends and family as “Big Head” (translated from Chinese) because of the abnormally large skull that she had. The rare condition had caused her skull to grow to about 20x20cm (four times the normal size) and she had begun experiencing many medical problems. These problems included severe pressure in her head, poor blood supply, and ulcers on the thinning portions of her skull. Doctors told her that her skull could rupture at any moment, and decided that something needed to be done quickly.

 

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Han Han reached a point where she had a difficult time lifting her head which weighed more than half of her entire body weight, and even faced the risk of having maggots develop in the ulcerated tissue. Her optic nerve was being squeezed so hard by the large amount of pressure that she recently almost went blind, and she had been bedridden since September of 2014.

Unfortunately for Han Han, her family did not have the money required to pay for the treatment that she needed. The original costs that doctors calculated for her family when she was diagnosed at the age of 6-months, was around 400,000 – 500,000 Chinese Yuan (approximately $64,000 – $80,000), but thanks to hundreds of strangers on the internet, enough money was raised to get her the treatment that she required.

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“Han Han was just six months old when we took her to the doctor to get checked,” her grandmother Han Han Guo explained. “The doctor said she had hydrocephalus. We asked family and friends for donations, but were just able to scrape together 100,000 yuan. At 1-year-old, Han Han’s mother left, and her father Chen Youzhi had to go out of his way to do odd jobs in order to earn 100 yuan per day to buy her the anti-inflammatory drugs she needed.”

Recently when Han Han was brought into the hospital, doctors sent her home with various treatments to help her gain weight and better prepare for a potential surgery.

“CT results showed that Han Han’s brain was filled 80% with water,” explained Dr. Bo of the Second People’s Hospital of Hunan Province. “If she was not sent to hospital for treatment, Han Han would not have survived the summer. We had to first eliminate the infection in Han Han’s head because the brain wound area was too large, and we needed to do skin graft surgery and insert a shunt to help eliminate the infection, and remove the fluid from her brain.”

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Upon seeing Han Han, the medical team at the Hunan Province Brain Hospital elected to perform an unheard of life-saving surgery which they called (translated from chinese) “whole brain shrinking plastic surgery”. It would involve the removal of Han Han’s scalp, full 3D reconstruction and 3D printing of a new titanium skull, repositioning of her brain, and removal of the excess cerebrospinal fluid.

Surgeons and medical personnel used 3D data that they acquired as well as CT scanners to create models for 3D printing three titanium mesh skull implants which would together replace Han Han’s entire top portion of her skull.

Taking place on July 14 and 15, the surgery lasted an incredible 17 hours. Her scalp was peeled away from her skull and then adhered to protective saline pads. Drainage tubes were put in her head to slowly release the cerebrospinal fluid. Then surgeons took the three 3D printed titanium implants and inserted them into Han Han’s head to recreate a new skull for her.

Miraculously the surgery went better than expected, and doctors say that Han Han should make a full recovery. When surgery was complete, Han Han immediately opened her eyes and resumed breathing on her own before being sent to the ICU for postoperative treatment and recovery.

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Over the course of the next few months and years, her normal bone growth should build up upon the titanium implants creating an entirely new, and smaller upper portion of her skull.

What do you think about this groundbreaking surgery?  Discuss in the 3D Printed Entire Upper Skull Implant forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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