Cancer patient receives 3-D printed ribs
Custom titanium sternum, rib implant 3D printed by Australian governments CSIRO Lab 22 facility.
The design and manufacture of the implant is the work of Australian medical device company, Anatomics, working in conjunction with the Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and its 3D printing facility, Lab 22.
According to the the surgical team — Dr José Aranda, Dr Marcelo Jimene and Dr Gonzalo Varela — the chest cavity’s complicated geometries could have made for a particularly tricky surgical procedure.
“We thought, maybe we could create a new type of implant that we could fully customise to replicate the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs,” Dr. Aranda said. “We wanted to provide a safer option for our patient, and improve their recovery post-surgery.”
Using high resolution CT data, the Anatomics team created a 3D reconstruction of the chest wall and tumour, allowing the surgeons to plan and accurately define resection margins.
“From this, we were able to design an implant with a rigid sternal core and semi-flexible titanium rods to act as prosthetic ribs attached to the sternum,” said Anatomics CEO Andrew Batty.
“While titanium implants have previously been used in chest surgery, designs have not considered the issues surrounding long term fixation,” he added. “Flat and plate implants rely on screws for rigid fixation that may come loose over time. This can increase the risk of complications and the possibility of reoperation.”
Working with CSIRO’s 3D printing facility Lab 22, the team then manufactured the implant out of surgical grade titanium alloy using the lab’s $1.3 million Arcam printer.
“The printer works by directing an electron beam at a bed of titanium powder in order to melt it,” said Alex Kingsbury from CSIRO’s manufacturing team. “This process is then repeated, building the product up layer-by-layer until you have a complete implant.