It is amazing to me what technology is capable of, and everyday I learn something that makes me wonder just how close we will actually come to some of the fictitious “marvels” seen on the sci-fi movies. Space travel, whole body health scanners, robotic arms and limbs. An 83 year old woman who was afflicted with a bone wasting disease that had claimed most of her lower jaw and left her unable to properly eat, or speak was the recipient of the very first 3-D printed jawbone. The jawbone, was made completely of a titanium powder sintered together layer by layer.
The “printing” process used a laser to heat and melt metal powder in the shape of the jawbone. That process, carried out by Belgian manufacturer LayerWise, allowed the 3D printer to sculpt and build up the patient’s medical implant layer by layer. A bioceramic coating ensured that the patient’s body would not reject the implant.
“The new treatment method is a world premiere because it concerns the first patient-specific implant in replacement of the entire lower jaw,” said Jules Poukens, a surgeon at the University Hasselt in Belgium.
After the lower mandible was constructed, it was coated in a biocompatible ceramic and then it was surgically placed during a four-hour surgery. The woman was able to say a few words only hours later. Her new jaw is a bit heavier than her old one, but appears to be well tolerated. She was able to go home just four days later.
Doctors feel as though this opens the door for the technology to allow for custom bone and joint replacements and someday It could pave the way for all kinds of 3-D printed body parts.