First 3D-Printed Cervical Disc Implanted

For any number of reasons, regulatory issues among them, orthopaedic innovations in China often have modest relevance for the practice of orthopaedics elsewhere in the world, but that doesn’t make them any less fascinating.

Case in point: According to Becker’s Spine Review, surgeons in China recently implanted the first-ever 3D-printed cervical disc in a 12-year-old boy. The surgeon, Dr. Liu Zhongjun, described the procedure as successful, although the patient will have to remain in a head frame with pins for three months.

The Becker’s story did not specify the material from which the cervical disc was printed, but 3D printing is capable of producing porous metal implants, and companies have reported success with 3D-printed implants made from thermoplastic materials.

One theoretical advantage of 3D-printed orthopaedic implants is that they can be customized based on digital images of a patient’s actual anatomy. That would conceivably result in a better fit, quicker recovery, and fewer complications.

Still, don’t expect to find a 3D prosthetic printer in your hospital anytime soon. Clinical studies required to ensure the safe and effective use of even the most promising new technologies take years. And even after such studies are completed, regulatory approval and coverage from payers is not guaranteed.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: