A 3D Printed Cranial Prosthesis Was Implanted in a Patient

Published on April 7, 2023 by Avery S.
3D printed cranial prosthesis

With the use of additive manufacturing in the medical field, it is becoming increasingly clear the technology can contribute to a better quality of life. For example, take the case of unprecedented operation that occurred in Germany at the University Hospital of Salzburg. Surgeons successfully implanted a 3D-printed cranial prosthesis in a patient – one of the first in Europe.

The 55-year-old patient was a victim of craniostenosis, a skull deformity in newborns that occurs when the bones fuse too early, causing the head to become deformed. The problem is not with the bone growth, but because the brain grows too quickly in the first year of life. For those affected, it can lead to increased intracranial pressure, which can cause problems with blindness and mental disability. The disease can also cause psychological stress to patients due to the deformed skull and its appearance. In these types of risky operations, 3D printing is becoming increasingly used.
prothèse crânienne

Mr. Trummer (center) had a 3D printed prosthesis implanted at the University Hospital of Salzburg

Professor Alexander Gaggl, head of the University Clinic for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (MKG) at the Salzburg University Hospital, explained: “We planned from the outset to replace the missing occiput with a prosthesis. However, we noticed that the scalp is very taut and barely stretchable.” For this reason, a plastic balloon was implanted under the patient’s scalp one year before the prosthesis was transplanted. A saline solution was added to the balloon during the treatment to make it the size of the desired 3D printed prosthesis.

Transplanting the 3D-printed prosthesis was a first for the Salzburg clinic. This one was also developed in the same place. CT images were used as templates to build it on the computer. This scanner makes it possible to obtain sliced ​​imaging of the different parts of the body as well as to visualize tissues of different densities. The Kumovis R1 3D printer was used to fabricate the prosthesis. This machine met the institution’s requirements, as the system guarantees a sterile process. As for the material used, it was printed with PEEK. The clinic said the manufacturing process would have taken about 10 hours. Six weeks after the operation and with the wounds largely healed, the patient Rainer Brummer was satisfied with the result: “I don’t feel like I have an implant in my head, I feel like I have a completely “normal” head now. This is the realization of a lifelong dream for me.” In Europe, the University Hospital of Salzburg is one of the leading pioneers of 3D printing in hospitals. After a long procedure, in which all guidelines are followed, the clinic was allowed to print and transplant implants.

prothèse crânienne

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*All Photo Credits: Salzburg University Hospital

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