3D Printed Rib Cage: Tech Firm Creates Replacement Rib Cage For Spanish Cancer Patient Using 3D Printing

A 3D printed rib cage has been manufactured and implanted into a Spanish cancer patient, replacing his tumor-stricken bones with a titanium set custom-built to fit into his own body, The Daily Mail is reporting.

The 54-year-old cancer patient was suffering from chest wall sarcoma, which is a cancer that causes tumors to grow around the ribs and sternum. Because the man’s cancer was so advanced, surgeons were forced to remove part of his rib cage. Ordinarily, a simple metal plate would be put in place of the rib cage, but thanks to advances in 3D printing, doctors at Salamanca University Hospital contacted Australian 3D printing company Anatomics to develop a 3D printed rib cage specifically for their patient. The Australian Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) oversaw the process. Using a process called “additive manufacturing,” Anatomics used CAT-scans and X-rays from the cancer patient to create a template for the new rib cage. The information was then fed into CSIRO’s $1.3 million 3D printing machine.

As MSN explains, “[T]he lab’s printer prints by using a high-powered electron beam to melt metal powder into layers. The result was a titanium object that looks less like ribs and more like something you’d see in a car’s engine, and fit perfectly into the patient’s rib cage.”

In a statement, a CSIRO spokesman explained how 3D printing enabled the patient to have a new rib cage that was custom-built for him.

“The reason 3D printing was desired for making this implant was because it needed to be customized exactly to suit the patient. No human body is the same, so therefore every implant is going to be different. It would have been an incredibly complex piece to manufacture traditionally, and in fact, almost impossible.”

In a blog post, CSIRO explained how further 3D printing can someday be used to create other custom-built body parts besides rib cages.

“When it comes to using 3D printing for biomedical applications, it seems that we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

The cancer patient who received the 3D printed rib cage, who has not been publicly identified as of this post, was released from the hospital after 12 days and is said to be doing well.

[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/Javier Rosano]