A 12-year-old boy suffering from bone cancer has become the first recipient of 3D-printed artificial vertebra replacement. The five-hour surgery was performed at Peking University in China where the boy is still recovering. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: A couple of months ago 12-year-old Qin was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer mostly found in children. His doctors needed to remove part of his spine. Normally surgoens would replace the diseased bone with a titantium tube, but instead the doctors decided to try something new, making Qin the first person ever to be implanted with a 3D printed vertebra replacement. Liu Zhongjun, the director of orthapedics at Peking University says his team used a combination of scans and specialised engineering software to create a prefect replica of the piece of Qin's spine that had to be replaced. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) DIRECTOR OF ORTHOPAEDIC DEPARTMENT OF PEKING UNIVERSITY THIRD HOSPITAL, LIU ZHONGJUN, SAYING: "So how can we produce a 3D printed artificial axis? We can use iconographic tests on patients such as a computed tomogram or CT scans and convert the CT data into 3D printing data in order to produce an internal fixation with exactly the same structure as the patient's bone structure. When it is implanted into a human being, it perfectly matches the patient's own anatomical structure." And that perfect match, says Liu, means the surgeons didn't need to use surgical cement or screws to implant the artificial spinal bone. It also means Qin will have a faster recovery and increased mobility after he heals. Liu also says the implant was printed using titanium powder, the standard metal used in orthopaedic implants due to its biocompatability and that tiny pores in the artificial vertebrae will allow bone to grow into it and bond with the device. Qin's mother, Xu Minglin, says she was nervous ahead of the surgery. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) PATIENT'S MOTHER, XU MINGLIN, SAYING: "When I was told that he would be the first case of this kind, I was a little torn. But in the end, I considered that 3D technology has already been applied in the medical world, and they must be confident." One month after the surgery everyone is confident that Qin is on the road to recovery. His mom says he's in good spirits knowing that his surgery is a step towards giving others needing spinal replacement a new treatment option.