The surgery replaced the second vertebra in a 12-year-old boy’s neck. The boy had developed cancer in the vertebra, which needed to be surgically removed and replaced with a 3D print.
Minghao has been lying in the orthopedics ward for more than two months. He could occasionally stand up, but only for a few minutes.
“He was playing football when he headed the ball and injured his neck. It was later confirmed to be malicious tumor,” Minghao’s mother said.
The surgery involved the spinal cord, the internal and external carotid arteries and the trachea. Only five hospitals in China could perform the operation. Once the vertebra was removed, an implant needed to be placed between the first and third vertebrae to allow the boy to raise his head after surgery.
A hospital in Beijing has carried out the the world’s first 3D printed vertebra surgery.
“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. But with 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods,” Liu Zhongjun, director of orthopedics at No. 3 Hospital, Peking University, said.
The procedure of doctors successfully embedding the artificial vertebra to replace the removed one lasted five hours.
“This is the first use of a 3D printed vertebra as an implant for orthopedic spine surgery in the world,” Liu said.
Five days after the operation, Minghao still could not speak and had to use a writing board to communicate. But doctors say he is in a good physical condition and will recover soon.