Following a 3D-printed heel bone, a 3D-printed mouth guard for sleep apnea sufferers and the world's first 3D-printed jet engine, Lab 22 at Australia's CSIRO has added to the growing list of 3D-printed medical implants by designing and printing a replacement titanium sternum and rib cage for a 54-year-old cancer patient.

The sternum and rib cage features a complex geometry that means the flat and plate implants traditionally used for this part of the chest can come loose over time. For this reason, the surgical team at the Salamanca University Hospital in Spain thought a custom 3D-printed implant would be a better option for a Spanish man suffering from a chest wall sarcoma – a condition that had resulted in a cancerous tumor growing around his rib cage, requiring certain sections to be removed.

By using high resolution CT scans, Melbourne-based medical device company Anatomics, working with the patient's surgical team, was able to design an implant specifically customized to fit perfectly in the patient's chest. With the design in hand, the company turned to Lab 22, who printed the implant layer-by-layer using its AUD$1.3 million (US$920,000) Arcam electron beam metal 3D printer.

Once complete, the 3D-printed sternum and partial rib cage was couriered to Spain and implanted into the patient's chest. The implant was designed with pieces that went over the remaining bone and allowed them to be attached securely with screws.

The surgery was a success and the patient was discharged from hospital 12 days later.

The video below below describes the process used to create the implant.

Source: CSIRO