An 83-year-old woman who was suffering from a lower jaw infection has become the first person to receive a jaw implant manufactured with a 3D printer.
This is a significant breakthrough as cases such as hers are normally treated with re-constructive surgery.
Due to her age and health, doctors considered this approach too risky and so, turned to a company called LayerWise, that specializes in 3D printing of metallic structures.
So how does this work?? Well, titanium powder is melted with a high-precision laser into layers which is guided by a computer model of the jaw. Then the computer generated model is digitally divided into 2D layers and printed – 33 layers per millimetre!
After the implant was made it was treated with a bio-ceramic coating by Cam Bioceramics BV. With articulated joints and cavities, grooves that foster muscle attachment, nerve and vein regrowth, it is amazing to think how intricate and realistic the ‘part’ can be made. This ‘printed jaw’ was also made within a matter of a few hours.
The printed implant fit so well into the patient, that surgeons were able to attach it in just four hours, meaning a shorter surgery and a shorter recovery time.
The patient was able to go home with her new jaw after only four days.
Wonderful applications this technology has for the future of healthcare – putting better quality of life in the reach of many more.