A new medical breakthrough has been accomplished! A 3D-printed device saves the lives of children suffering from a rare condition that affects their airways and prevents them from breathing properly.
The condition is called tracheobronchomalacia and it causes the incomplete development of the small airways around the lungs. It is a life threatening disease because breathing is significantly impaired, making the children who suffer from it spend their lives in the ICU attached to tubes and machines to help them breathe.
But now there is hope for these patients, as doctors at the University of Michigan have created a very promising solution. The devised a airway splint that replaces the affected tissue. This implant is tailor-made for every individual patient, in accordance to their CT scans, so that it has the exact shape needed. Then it is materialized through 3D-printing.
3D printing has been used in medicine before in order to create artificial ear implants that helped patients regain hearing and to create artificial bone material for the jaws and hips for Orthopedics patients. But what this invention pioneers in is the fact that is has the amazing ability to grow with the patient and even to dissolve when it is no longer needed without causing any suffering to the patents.
The small airway splint is made out of polycaprolactone, a bioabsorbable material that has the useful property of having a porous texture and of being able to be dissolved in the body in time. It has the shape of a hollow tube that helps support the underdeveloped structures after being stitched over them.
At the moment three children are included in the study. One of them, the first to receive the airway splint, was operated on three years ago and he is now a thriving 3-year-old. His name is Kaiba and he can now breathe on his own thanks to the splint, that has actually been showed to have been absorbed.
Two other children suffering from the same condition have received the device and are showing promising results. “The device worked better than we could have ever imagined,”, happily reported Dr. Glenn Green, Associate Professor of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the University of Michigan.
Before this breakthrough, children suffering from tracheobronchomalacia went through numerous surgeries in order to receive several implants, when the priors became too small to sustain proper breathing.
It is particularly the fact that this 3D-printed airway splint grows along with the patient that makes it remarkable. “Now these children are home with their families. Instead of lying on their backs for weeks, these children are now learning to stand and run,”, further pointed out Dr. Green.
Furthermore, Dr. Green explains that despite the complex nature behind producing the splint, its costs are of a mere $10, thus making it not only exponentially more efficient for the patient, but considerably less expensive as well. One surgery that is needed to implant the splint will obviously be less costly than several that previous protocol called for.
The crucial point in the development of such patients is that they be helped to breathe until the age of 3, when it is expected that they are able to breathe on their own. It is on this basis that lays the crucial nature of patients suffering from severe cases of tracheobronchomalacia. Therefore, they must be brought into this clinical trial as soon as possible.
The FDA has granted emergency permission for these surgeries, but in the future it expects this device to be up to the required performance standards, similar to manufactured medical devices.
Overall, it is a marvelous day in medicine, as this 3D-printed device saves the lives of children that prior to it had so slim chances of survival. The doctors who devised the remarkable airway splint have applied for a patent for it and it is everybody’s hope that it will be a widely used treatment in future cases of tracheobronchomalacia.
Image Source: mcclatchyinteractive.com
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