World's First 3D-Printed Vertebra Implanted Into 12-Year-Old Beijing Boy

Intel Inside? We're almost there thanks to doctors at Peking University Third Hospital who successfully implanted the world's first 3D-printed vertebra into a young Chinese boy's neck.

The boy's need for the pioneering technique became apparent after he sought attention for an unrelated injury suffered while playing soccer, whereupon doctors discovered a previously unsuspected malignant tumor growing in the bones of 12-year-old Minghao's neck.

Doctors at Peking University Third Hospital decided the best course of action required to prevent the cancer from spreading was to remove Minghao's second cervical vertebra. The next question was... how and with what would the essential bone be replaced?

The usual procedure in cases such as this is to implant a prefabricated implant but this proved to be problematic due to Minghao's young age – his other bones would grow but the implant would not. While the same can be said about a 3D-printed replacement vertebra, the latter would be an exact replica of the removed bone; 3D-printed from titanium power and custom-fitted without requiring metal screws and plates to maintain it in position.

As well, tiny pores designed into the implant allow the recipient's neighboring bones and cartilage to grow into the implants, thus securing and integrating the implant in a more natural manner that will evolve over time.

“This is the first use of a 3D-printed vertebra as an implant for orthopedic spine surgery in the world,” stated Dr. Liu Zhongjun, a leading researcher in the field of 3D-printed implants at Peking University's Orthopedics Department who first began experimenting with 3D-printed implants in 2009. As for Minghao, doctors report his full recovery may take many months but in time he'll be able to live a normal, healthy and athletic life. (via China Daily)