A Chinese farmer left with a large chunk missing from his skull is to have it repaired with the help of a 3D printer.
The man, known only as 46-year-old Hu, was injured after falling from the third floor of his home in Xi’an, Shaanxi province.
Doctors are now planning to re-build his skull with a titanium mesh created by a 3D printer.
The custom-made implant will be inserted under Hu’s skin and attached to his skull.
If the procedure is successful, doctors say the mesh will restore the original shape of his head.
Last week surgeons in China successfully implanted an artificial 3D-printed vertebra into a 12-year-old bone cancer patient to help him walk again.
Doctors at Peking University Hospital in Beijing first removed a tumour located in the second vertebra of the boy’s neck.
They then replaced it with the 3D-printed implant between the first and third vertebrae to allow him to lift his head.
The five-hour surgery was a world first and will enable the boy named Minghao to walk again after spending two months confined to a hospital bed.
While 3D-printed organs are not yet commonly used, there have been previous cases of patients being implanted with 3D-printed jaws, hips and even a pelvis.
‘This is the first use of a 3D-printed vertebra as an implant for orthopaedic spine surgery in the world,’ Dr Liu Zhongjun, who performed the surgery, told Chinese media CCTV.
Using existing technology, the patient’s head needs to be framed with pins after surgery. The patient’s head cannot touch the bed when he is resting. This lasts for at least three months,’ Dr Liu said.
‘But with 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods,’ said Dr Liu Zhongjun, who performed the surgery.
And last year, British surgeons used 3D printing technology to recreate the severely injured face of a road accident victim.
The unaffected side of the biker’s face was used to create a mirror image, to enable perfect facial reconstruction.
The images are were both to design guides to cut and position facial bones with pinpoint accuracy and create tailor-made implants for the patient.
The guides and implants were produced in medical-grade titanium in Belgium, at one of the world’s few specialist 3D printing facilities.