April 07, 2014      

?We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.? ?Marshall McLuhan


There is a 22-year-old woman in the Netherlands who doesn?t care if the advent of 3D printing has brought on fears of basement handgun makers or crazies plotting catastrophe. She?s a recipient of a new lease on life courtesy of the new technology.

Formerly she was suffering from a rare condition which thickens bone structure and puts pressure on the brain. A thickening skull puts the brain under increasing pressure that slowly cost the woman her vision and then started to impair her motor coordination.

HEXUS.NET:?”It was only a matter of time before other essential brain functions would have been impaired and she would have died. So intensive surgery was inevitable, but until now there was no effective treatment for such patients,” explained Dr. Bon Verweij of

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University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, who carried out the procedure.

The implant, made entirely of plastic, was created in partnership with Australian company Anatomics, which specializes in 3D printed implants for the medical profession.

The procedure, believed to be the first of its kind, took 23 hours to complete.

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“We used to create an implant by hand in the operating theater using a kind of cement, but those implants did not have a very good fit,” Verweij said. “Now we can use 3D printing to ensure that these components are an exact fit.

“This has major advantages, not only cosmetically but also because patients often have better brain function compared with the old method.”

Verweij says the technique could also be used for patients with other bone deformities, and to reconstruct skulls that have been severely damaged in an accident, or due to tumors.

“It’s now three months after the operation.” he concluded. “The patient has fully regained her vision, she has no more complaints, she’s gone back to work and there are almost no traces that she had any surgery at all.”

See also, upcoming webcast: Healthcare Robotics (June 26)