U-M doctors use 3D printer to create life-saving airway implant for baby boy

Wolverine or Sparty, all Michiganders can agree that some amazing technology came out of our state this week of which we can all be proud.

The Detroit Free Press ran a story this week about doctors at the University of Michigan who used a 3D printer to create a custom-made implant for a baby boy.  See the Free Press story HERE.

Nineteen-month-old Kaiba Gionfriddo had a rare disorder that caused one of the airways in his lungs to collapse every time he exhaled. He stopped breathing virtually every day, and doctors continually had to resuscitate him.

The article states, “So (Dr. Glenn) Green and his U-M colleagues tried something new. Using a 3D printer, they custom-built a tiny, flexible splint that will grow with Kaiba. Researchers used a special material designed to be absorbed by Kaiba’s body in about three years, said coauthor Scott Hollister, a professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering.”

The doctors took a CT scan and used it as a 3D blueprint to design the splint.

Kaiba is now 19 moths old and breathing well.

“We’re really relieved and happy that he’s not turning blue anymore,” said April Gionfrido, Kaiba’s mother.

The Freep reports Kaiba was able to come off the ventilator three weeks after his surgery in February 2012. “Our prediction is that this will be a cure for him,” Green told the Freep. “The splint will go away, and the process will be done.”

The porous splint is made from the same material as dissolvable stitches, Green said. Just as a wisteria vine grows through a trellis, Kaiba’s body will create new cells to permeate the scaffold. By the time the splint is completely absorbed, doctors hope that Kaiba’s own tissue will be sturdy enough to keep his airway open.

Scientists are looking to use 3D printing to custom engineer a variety of implants. One day we might be getting custom-printed body parts and blood vessels.

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