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Josip Lopac

In following the vast world of 3D printing, we cover a wide range of innovations in the medical industry, and it seems each is more exciting than the last. Today’s patients are benefiting impressively from the technology that’s really almost still considered to be in a fledgling state. And because of that we are constantly looking toward the day that parts of the body can be repaired further internally, cellular structures efficiently reproduced and used, and 3D printed organs used for transplants. Uses for 3D printing in medicine are continually being broadened as scientists, researchers, and medical professionals continue to break the boundaries of tradition.

All eyes are on currently on the 3D printing front in Croatia as they have recently been able to perform the successful insertion of the first all-acrylic 3D printed vertebra in a cancer patient. At 77 years old, the patient, Josip Lopac, is suffering from metastatic cancer, spreading from a spinal tumor.

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3D printing the acrylic vertebra

The procedure, which was performed at the Neurosurgical Clinic in Rijeka, is significant because of the use of pure acrylic. Having developed a tumor on his seventh vertebra, Lopac’s condition was considered very serious. With this procedure though, they were able to replace the cancer-ridden area with the acrylic piece after scanning it and basically forming it into an exact 3D printed replica of Lopac’s bone–minus the tumor.

“We view this procedure as a major advantage in our fight with cancer,” stated the patient’s doctor and head of the University of Rijeka’s Neurosurgical Department. “The key advantage is that you can build a custom part for the patient, instead of using predesigned and premanufactured designs which might not fit the patient.”

As most of us know, metastatic cancer is generally not a good prognosis whatsoever–and before the surgery indeed, medical professionals did not foresee a positive outcome for Lopac; however, due to the innovation afforded through 3D printing and medical professionals thinking outside of tradition, Lopac is looking forward experiencing a lot more of what life has to offer. Stating that he did have some trepidation with the surgery, in the end, he “thanks God, it’s allright…and there is no more pain.”

oneWhile the patient’s safety and outcome are of course first on the list in terms of why such an item would be used, the 3D printed acrylic vertebra offers the most classic benefits of 3D printing: affordability and customization. With this piece, rather than using the standard of titanium mixed with acrylic, with the fabricated and all pure acrylic material, the cost was exponentially cheaper as well as offering a completely patient-specific route–part of the real magic in 3D printing. While the surgery was long and intense, with this innovation, time was also shaved off the amount of hours spent in the operating room.

While Lopac will still have more surgeries in the near future, how amazing it must feel to go from being labeled ‘terminal’ to knowing that the future once again looks promising. Surgeons will use the same basic procedure to replace his fifth vertebra soon.

What are your thoughts on yet another amazing medical use for 3D printing?  Discuss in the 3D Printed Vertebra forum thread on 3DPB.com.

[Source: Dnevnik]

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