In a recent medical breakthrough, doctors from the French hosptial, CHU, located in Toulouse, successfully implanted the first airway stent made with 3D printing. The tracheobronchial prosthesis was created by Toulouse-based company Anatomik Modeling which focuses on custom 3D implants.

 

The 3D Printed custom tracheobronchial prosthesis.

The airway stent adds to the medical industry’s utilization of 3D printing technology to produce tailor-made implants, having already used 3D printed sternums and 3D printed vertebrae to name a couple. The patient, a 60-year-old Frenchman, previously received a lung transplant in Toulouse two years prior to needing the airway stent. The patient was having difficulty breathing, and upon inspection, doctors observed that the patient was suffering from stenosis, narrowing and contracting of the bronchi, and he required immediate attention.

The resolution doctors came up with was to use a custom-made tracheobronchial prosthesis, 3D printed with silicon. CHU and Anatomik Modeling collaborated to produce a model based on scans of the patient’s bronchi. The model was developed and a mold of the implant was 3D printed. Having an implant that was specifically fabricated to the patient’s bronchi allowed for successful implantation of the airway stent. This allowed doctors to avoid typical complications for this type of surgery, such as having a ill-fitting implant.

Without 3D printing technologies, doctors may not have been able to perform a successful operation. Although costs are still relatively high for tailor-made medical implants, they minimize the fail-rate for surgical implants. CHU and Anatomik and currently in collaboration to develop more 3D implants, with hopes to commercialize products by next year. Since this first success, this technology has been used on three more patients successfully with two more patients still awaiting surgery.

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