These days, researchers are working to create new “firsts” in every field of science in order to provide better life for the people of the world. Recently, doctors in India, a country that has been basking in its “recent record-breaking satellite launch”, have completed the nation’s first 3D printed spinal restoration surgery.
A 32 year old Indian woman lost her ability to walk as a result of acute case of tuberculosis. Generally, this disease affects the lungs. However, owing to the drugs being given to her for infertility, her immune system was exceptionally weak and hence the disease affected her spinal cord. Her first, second and third cervical vertebrae were compromised due to tuberculosis, thereby taking away support for both her skull and lower spine.
The impaired spinal cord gave rise to a curved posture, weakness in her limbs, and an involuntarily sliding of the head. Her condition would have been more or less a death sentence if left untreated. But, a team of surgeons at Gurgaon Hospital had a fascinating solution.
Dr. V Anand Naik, a senior consultant of spine surgery from the Medanta Bone and Joint Institute, led a team of surgeons and replaced the damaged vertebrae with a 3D printed titanium copy. First of all, a dummy spine was 3D printed which was perfectly sized for the patient’s requirements by making use of CT and MRI scans as reference. The ultimate titanium implant was developed after a lot of testing by design teams from India, the U.S., and Sweden for biomechanics and stress resistance.
Later on, the replacement was implanted between the first and fourth vertebrae by Naik and his team, thus bridging the gap within the damaged spine. The surgery took 10 hours after which Dr.Naik spoke to Hindustan Times:
“It was a very complex surgery and the patient’s condition was deteriorating by the day. It would not have been possible to do it without 3D-printing technology.”
It is being expected that the patient will recover completely in two weeks and will be capable of living a normal life. It can be said without doubt that her journey is actually one for the history books. What seemed like an impossible case was resolved with multinational efforts that went beyond traditional medical thinking. Today’s “first” in a field could eventually become a common practice that saves many lives, but then again, just saving one is enough for now. Let’s see as the future for 3D printed solutions unravels itself.