July 3, 2016

Oh 3D printing, how much do we love you? A lot, according to a man in China who just took his first steps in quite some time, and is extremely grateful to have done so.

“For me, it’s a scenario of no cure without 3D printing,” said the patient, Mr. Yuan.

While grateful to be alive, Mr. Yuan is also extremely happy to be walking again after going through a very difficult time with his health. After doctors found a malignant tumor on his spine, they were forced to take aggressive action as is often the case, removing both the tumor and a huge portion of his backbone with it. While these measures are taken so that the patient is not consumed by cancer, the repercussions can be devastating, as someone may find themselves alive and tumor-free but, as in Mr. Yuan’s case, unable to use their legs.

The team responsible for Mr. Yuan’s recent progress was led by Dr. Liu Zhongjun, chief orthopedics surgeon at Beijing Third University Hospital. He decided to fabricate 3D printed mesh tubes that would eventually allow for the normal growth of spinal tissues around them.

scansWith five vertebrae being removed, the team 3D printed the patient-specific 3D printed implant at 7.5 inches long (19 cm). It is constructed of a titanium mesh—and even more amazing, although this is an artificial device, it will encourage Yuan’s spinal cord to grow back, with the mesh biodegrading over time.

“The titanium mesh tube can be any length, even shorter than 19 centimetres,” Dr. Zhongjun explained. “3D printing can produce implants of whatever size and shape. Our prognosis is that the patient will have a full recovery.”

3D printing and the availability of progressive new implants is allowing for changes in procedures like spinal fusion surgery too, with a German patient receiving a 3D printed titanium fusion implant, and a toddler last year even receiving a 3D printed titanium skull replacement.


Applications like this, offering what certainly seem like miraculous opportunities in the medical field, are a substantial part of why the push is strong to employ and refine 3D printing in metal, as well as performing considerable research and development to offer materials like titanium. Global companies like K2M Grouphave created entire systems centered around 3D printed titanium spinal implants, as well as newer companies like New Jersey-based Additive Orthopaedics, dedicated to using 3D printing to make implants and parts for the extremities. Researchers in Singapore are even experimenting with combining 3D printing metal powders and mixing alloys to produce better titanium products.

In China, approvals have been coming swiftly in the area of 3D printing technology with approval by theChina Food and Drug Administration, as well as more specific approval for items like 3D printed spinal sections for medical applications having been passed on May 6. This recent spinal implant procedure was the first successful procedure of its kind in the country. Because this patient responded so well with the implantation of the 3D printed medical device, walking just days afterward, Dr. Zhongjun is certain they will be performing similar surgeries in the future. Discuss this latest medical news over in the 3D Printed Medical Implant Allows Man to Walk forum over at

[Source/Images: Global News]


Dr. Liu Zhongjun, chief orthopedics surgeon at the Beijing University Third Hospital, assists Mr. Yuan in walking just days after his surgery, with the 3D printed spinal implant successfully inserted.


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