A Life Saved By 3D Printing

How 3D printing technology is being adopted into the medical field – and beginning to save lives.

Kaiba went home looking healthy with his proud parents in October 2011. The view about his health changed one evening when the family went out to dinner. While in the restaurant, Kaiba stopped breathing and turned blue. He was rushed to the hospital that night.


He was sent home after staying in the hospital for ten days. However, he was back in the hospital two days after his discharge. It was after this incident that doctors found out his rare medical condition called tracheobronchomalacia. It is a medical condition in which the trachea is weakened thus collapsing and preventing the patient from breathing properly. Kaiba had a severe case of the disease. His health problems were life threatening. The child’s heart stopped on a daily basis according to his parents.


Researchers from the University of Michigan were studying the use of 3D printed splints to help patients with this condition. Due to Kaiba’s situation, the Food and Drug Administration gave the device an emergency clearance.


After the splint was “printed,” it was immediately placed in the baby’s airway. The device opened his trachea, which allowed him to breathe properly without being hooked to support machines.


In the earlier days, a device like this was carved by hand. But with the new technology of 3D printing, the splint can made in 24 hour, for a fraction of the cost.


You can watch this video to see how the device saved Kaiba’s life


According to the researchers, the splint was made from a material that will dissolve within three years. By the time the device is completely dissolved, the baby’s trachea would have fully developed. When that happens, there would be no more need for another splint.


University of Michigan professor of biomedical engineering, Scott Hollister and his colleagues is working on other medical devices. Their goal is to develop aids for the ears, nose and bones using 3D printing technology.

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