We have taken many news about the importance of 3D printing for the health industry, especially when it comes to prosthetics (3D Printed Hands for Disabled Children) but now, a new milestone has been set in the operating rooms of a hospital in Holland to create a 3D printed skull.
Before we move on, some of the images might be a little too strong for some viewers.
Before we get into the real case, we must remember that this is not the first case of a bone transplant, in fact, in China bone replacements are fairly common now and at affordable prices for the average Joe (well maybe not to cheap). Also, last year (2013) 75% of a patient’s skull was replaced with a 3D implant made out of Polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) which is a very specific type of thermoplastic.
In this new case study, a patient in Holland, a 22 year old patient had been suffering from a disorder in which her skull would not stop growing, at the time of the operation her skull was at 5cms of thickness (2inches) which is almost 4 times the normal size (1.5cms).
An Australian firm was in charge of developing the new skull cap, but it wasn’t made of the previously mentioned PEKK, in fact we haven’t heard what this material is, it appears to be a new secret type of plastic, we are almost sure that its some sort of thermoplastic related to the PEKK family due to their high resistance to sterilization processes, but the firm hasn’t revealed the name of this plastic yet. Why is it transparent? Well, that just turns out to be a coincidence due to the properties of the material, lots of plastics can be transparent such as acrylics, polycarbonates, PLA, HDPE, etc. In this case is just a mere coincidence. Still, the advantages for having a transparent skull are obvious, we can get real time feedback on how things happen at a macroscopically level but we can also get brain activity like never before.
So far it appears that the new 3D printed skull-cap will be a permanent solution for the 22 year old patient we didn’t get details on how it’s actually attached to the patient’s bone structure as well as to the protective layer just beneath ( medically known as the dura), hopefully we will get full disclosure of the procedure soon.
There is still so much that we can learn from this 3D processes and materials, the possibility to further customize this parts as well as the attachment process are unlimited.
We will be sure to keep you posted if anything comes across our desk about this and other related milestones in this medical area which never sizes to amaze us.
Here is a video of the procedure. (Warning, it might be too graphical for some viewers)