3D Printing: The New Era?

Only ten-years-ago, the concept of using 3D printing to print parts of the human body was something better left to the likes of Ridley Scott and James Cameron - that is to say, utter science-fiction. Now, the impossible has become the possible.

In March 28th of this year, Dr. Gaurav Gupta, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Director of Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, successfully inserted a 3D printed skull implant into his patient during a four-hour surgery.  

Dr. Gupta’s patient, Christopher Cahill, suffered an injury to his frontal lobe that resulted in life-threatening brain swelling. After easing the swelling in surgery, Dr. Gupta concluded that an infection to Cahill’s skull had ruled his skull ineffective.

In response to the infection, Dr. Gupta collaborated with medical device company, DeputSynthese CMS and used their 3D printing to create a cranial skull implant specifically optimised for Cahill. The implant, made out of polyetheretherketone, was specifically chosen for its strength, stability and biocompatibility.

Speaking after the successful surgery, Gupta said:

“The 3D printed model is an exact and custom fit because it is created using the patient’s CT scan. Ten years ago, we could not even think that we would be using this technology. However, we certainly always had the need for it,” he said.

“It's such a new area and everybody's very excited about it, and everybody likes to use the words 3D, 3D-printed body parts. But it must be understood that this is not a magic new substance that will increase your life or the fountain of youth,” Gupta said.

“This is indeed a very exciting time," he said, "a time when the merging of the body's own tissues and devices that human beings have created can prolong our lives and make us more comfortable and disease free.”

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