Woman Receives 3D Printed Cranial Implant
Kyle Maxey posted on March 27, 2014 |

3D printing, brain, surgery, medicine, HollandFor the past few years 3D printing has been making news in the world of medicine. From bioprinting sample organs for drug testing to creating custom prosthetics, additive manufacturing and 3D scanning are revolutionizing medicine. While those achievements are remarkable, a recent surgical procedure shows just how much AM can benefit medical science and patient outcomes.

Three months ago, a 22-year-old Dutch woman entered the UMC Utrecht hospital in desperate need of a life saving procedure. Suffering from a rare disease that causes extra bone to thicken her skull, the woman was beginning to lose her eyesight and the ability to control her face.

According to UMC Utrecht surgeon Bon Verweij, the patient’s skull had grown to 5cm thick, a full 3.5cm larger than the average human skull. Immediate action was necessary.

Dr. Verweij began by scanning the woman’s head to produce a 3D model of her skull. From that model, Verweij and his team designed and printed a half-dome cranial implant using biocompatible plastic. Then, in a 23-hour procedure, the UMC Utrecht team removed the upper half of the woman’s skull and replaced it with the custom-built prosthetic.

"With 3D printing we can customize implants to their exact size. It has great cosmetic and medicinal benefits. Patients' brain function often recovers better than the traditional methods,” said Verweij.

After three months, it appears Dr. Verweij was right about the potential of 3D printed implants. The woman who underwent the harrowing cranial implant procedure is now out of the hospital and, according to Verweij, her recovery is progressing well. “The woman has her eyesight back. She is back to work and it is nearly impossible to see she was ever operated on."

Thanks to 3D printing, medical science is finally bringing bespoke solutions to individual problems, allowing a science fraught with uncertainty to adapt quickly and effectively to any problem.

Warning: Graphic Medical Imagery

Image Courtesy of UMC Utrect

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