Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) introduced a customizable, 3D-printed sternum-and-rib implant for patients that need a part of their ribcage replaced. Just such an implant was recently used for a 54-year-old patient with chest wall sarcoma—removal of the tumor also required partial removal of the man’s sternum and ribcage.
For the procedure, a high-resolution CT scan of the tumor and affected ribcage was conducted by Anatomics, a Melbourne-based medical device company. After the scan, it modeled the implant after the patient’s original anatomy, and determined the structure of the implant that would replace the parts that required removal.
Anatomics then brought the design to CSIRO’s 3D-printing facility, which houses an Arcam 3D printer that works with the same titanium used for traditional thoracic implants. Quoted at $1.3 million, the Arcan printer deploys an electron beam to melt the alloy powder as it builds the part layer by layer.
Thanks to 3D printing, the implant could be retrofitted to the patient’s thoracic structure, and screwed into the bony sections of the ribs. The design-to-production time was much shorter than the regular manufacturing of such a complex part and the patient has remained healthy since the surgery.