3D printing is one of the coolest, most amazing, and most technologically advanced inventions of our time. Aside from the fact that it allows people to print nearly anything they can imagine with nothing more than a computer program, some expertise, and the right materials, it is saving more and more lives every single day within the medical industry. Here are some examples.
University of Michigan – C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
Back in February of 2012, a little boy came to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital with a very rare and unusual condition. He was born with tracheobronchomalacia, which causes the tissue in parts of the airway to become weak and collapse sporadically. Because of his condition, the three-month-old infant struggled to breathe, and because it also blocked blood vessels nearby, including his aorta, he was eventually placed on life support while his doctors scrambled to come up with a plan.
The doctors knew that they would need to repair or even replace the weaker tissues, which is dangerous enough in an adult, but even riskier in an infant. Together with doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, they formulated a plan. They manufactured the new tissue with a 3D printer. The tissue would be implanted, and within a period of three years, the infant’s own tissue would grow over the splint, and the splint would dissolve. He went home three weeks after his surgery, and the little boy is now thriving with no unforeseen problems at all.
3D Images for Brain Surgeons
Although the number of implants that can be made from a 3D printer is on the rise, sometimes doctors need visualization in order to safely perform surgeries – especially brain surgeries. Because of the delicate nature of many of these procedures, doctors run numerous scans to try to recreate the patient’s brain on a computer screen. Although the technology is incredibly sophisticated and it gives surgeons a better sense of where blood vessels, tumors, and lesions lie within the brain, it does not provide the hands-on experience they need.
Once again, this is where 3D printing comes into play. With the very same software that surgeons use to recreate a human brain on a computer screen, they can also print a three-dimensional, life-size version of that brain they can hold in their hands. This gives them a better sense of proportion and direction, and it allows them to better plan their surgeries. For patients, it means there is an increased chance of success; their doctors have already held the patients’ brains in their hands thanks to the new technology.
As if the stories above were not awe-inspiring enough, experts claim that within the next several years, it will be possible to use 3D printing to create livers, kidneys, bladders, hearts, intestines, and more – all perfectly suited to the patient. Today, 18 people in the US die everyday waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, and 3D printing could save those lives – as well as many others.