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Published on : Sep 11, 2015

In a first of its kind surgery, a cancer patient from Spain has successfully been given a 3D printed titanium rib implant. The patient is recovering well, doctors say.

The 54 year old man was suffering from a chest wall sarcoma, which is a kind of tumor that develops in and around the rib cage. As a result, he needed a portion of his rib cage and his sternum to be replaced. 

Researchers said that recreating this part of the chest with prosthetics is unusually tricky because of the intricate structures and complex geometry involved. 

According to the surgical team of the patient at Spain’s Salamanca University Hospital, giving the patient a fully personalized 3D printed rib cage and sternum was the best alternative. 

Dr Jose Aranda, one of the surgeons on the team, said that the common idea was that if a new type of completely customized implant was created, they could replicate the complex and intricate structures of the ribs and the sternum. Aranda added that the surgeons wanted to provide the patient with a safe option and improve his post surgery recovery time.

This is when the team of surgeons turned to Anatomics, a medical device company based in Australia. Anatomics has designed, developed, and manufactured the implant using Lab 22, the 3D printing facility at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

The Anatomics team, via high resolution CT data, was able to develop a three dimensional reconstruction of the tumor as well as the chest wall, which enabled the team of surgeons to strategize and precisely define the resection margins. 

The implant was then manufactured by the team using surgical grade titanium alloy.

Alex Kingsbury, part of the manufacturing team at CSIRO said that the implant was built using the Arcam printer worth US$ 1.3 million