… Bryan and April Gionfriddo have a 6-month-old baby, Kaiba, who suddenly couldn’t breathe due to his bronchus suddenly collapsing. The baby’s parents took him to the emergency room where it was determined Kaiba would require a splint being inserted in order to hold open his bronchial tube, to hopefully allow the tissue to grow and heal around it properly. Doctors decided to use a 3D printer to create the splint as time was of the essence in order to Kaiba to survive his ordeal.
Kaiba was first imaged in order for technicians to get accurate dimensions to then have those measurements used to create a computer model, which acted as the blueprint. With that information, the 3D printer was able to print out the custom splint doctors needed in about a day.
Amazing. How do they remove it? They don’t. More detail:
Fresh out of options, Kaiba’s doctors contacted Green and his colleagues who were working on a new device that could help. The researchers had been searching for a way to help infants with collapsing airways. They designed a tube that could wrap around the floppy portion of a trachea or bronchus and hold the airway open. Each individual’s airway, however, is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead Green and his colleagues would create custom-designed devices using technology called three-dimensional printing.
A 3-D printer works like an inkjet printer, but instead of laying down layers of ink it deposits a structural material. The printer head adds each layer according to a digital pattern to create a 3-D structure. 3-D printers in manufacturing have built prototypes and parts for machines. In research settings bioengineers have created artificial ears, and lab rats have received printed spinal disks and bones. Printing fully functioning organs and tissues for humans poses some challenges. A kidney, for example, needs working blood vessels and tubes to collect urine.
Problems with the trachea, however, lend themselves to 3-D printed solutions because the organ’s ridged tubelike structure is simple. After testing their idea in piglets, Green and his colleagues were confident a printed device would work. Scott Hollister, a professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan was in charge of designing sleeve that would wrap around the outside of the floppy airway. The sleeve’s structure allows it to expand as the airway grows and develops while simultaneously resisting spasms that pull inward, thereby collapsing the airway.
The team first used a computed tomography (CT) scan to sketch out Kaiba’s airways. From those images, they then sculpted a three-dimensional printed cast that had the same shape as Kaiba’s collapsed bronchus. Using that cast they created the sleeve or splint that would wrap around the bronchus. It took several tries but the researchers were eventually able to create a perfect fit. The next step was to sew the tissue of Kaiba’s bronchus to the inside of the sleeve. The team needed to obtain an emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they could implant the device. “When we put the splint on, we saw his lungs move for the first time,” Green says. As Kaiba grows, the device should expand with him.
The tube itself was printed in layers of a biocompatible plastic called polycaprolactone. The 3-D printer heats up a powdered form of the plastic until it melts and can be extruded in a paste. After a few years inside a body the tube will dissolve – it is made of the same material used for sutures – and by that time his bronchus should have grown strong enough to function normally.
Kaiba’s tube is the first time a 3-D printed device has been implanted in a patient to aid tissue reconstruction. The research team reported the case on May 22 in The New England Journal of Medicine. …