3D printed ribs

The 3D printed sternum and rib cage fit inside the patient’s body. Credit: Anatomics

The sternum (the central piece) and the rib cages emanating from it, have been designed using precise scans to perfectly fit in the patient’s chest after he had sections removed. Image credit: Anatomics

A Spanish cancer patient has received a 3D printed sternum and ribs in what is the first surgery of this type. 

The titanium sternum and rib cage have been 3D printed by CSIRO in Australia.

The patient was affected by a chest wall sarcoma that required the resection of the sternum and part of ribs. The problem in creating prosthetics for this part of the body is the complex geometry and the dynamic stress the prosthetic is subject (continuous movement of expansion and compression for breathing).

The surgery took place at the Salamanca Hospital in Spain. The doctors performed a CT scan of his rib cage and sent it to Anatomics in Australia. They remotely worked with the surgeons in Spain to define the best resection points and then designed the titanium prosthetic. 

Normally, sternum and ribs prosthetic is done using flat plates but these do not fit well with the normal geometry of the rib cage. The one designed by Anatomics mimics the real one in terms of dynamic behaviour but it would have been impossible to manufacture using normal methods.

Anatomics turned to CSIRO, the Australian Research Centre, that used a 1.3 million AU$ 3D printer to create the prosthetic, one titanium layer upon layer.

Once manufactured the prosthetic was shipped to Salamanca and it is good to know that the patient promptly recovered.

Interesting to see these kinds of application of 3D printing!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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