Dr. Ralph Mobbs, a Neurosurgeon at the Neuro Spine Clinic at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Australia, was able to preform the first-ever spinal transplant using 3-D printed titanium vertebra in the transplant during a 15-hour long surgery. His 60 year-old patient suffered from a severe form of cancer known as Chordoma that resided in two tumors that inhabited the two vertebrae that are involved with rotation of the head. Since the tumors are located so high up on the spine, if left untreated, the tumors would eventually grow to compress the brain stem and spinal chord, which would cause quadriplegia. Due to the high risk that comes with the surgery to remove these tumors means it often goes un-treated, until now… Normally in this surgery doctors would try to reconstruct the vertebrae using bone from another place in the body, but according to Dr. Mobbs it can be very difficult to get a good fit; hence why the surgery is not a popular one.
Dr. Mobbs says 3D printing allows him and many other doctors to customize body parts for specific patients, allowing them to achieve that perfect fit that’s crucial for success. To make the vertebrae implants for this patient, Dr. Mobbs worked with an Australian medical device company named Anatomics. Along with the vertebrae implants, the company also printed the doctor a bunch of models of the patient's exact anatomy so he was able to practice the surgery a few times before walking into the operating room, lowering the risks of this high risk surgery even more than one thought was possible, an amazing accomplishment in the medical field!
In this article Dr, Mobbs said, "There's no doubt this is the next big wave of medicine. For me, the holy grail of medicine is the manufacturing of bones, joints and organs on-demand to restore function and save lives." For Mobbs next step forward in this medical advancement, he wants to be able to harvest and use cells from the patient’s body onto a 3D scaffold in order to grow fully customized implants, instead of using titanium implants! This technique could be increasingly useful for organ transplants and the like- eliminating the waiting game that comes with needing an organ transplant.
-Kelsey Morrison (2)