Science 3 min read

Here's how Doctors Repaired a Spinal Cord With 3D-Printed Titanium

Ever wanted to have an Adamantium skeleton like Wolverine? China comes close with a 3D printed Titanium implant for spinal cord repair surgery.

Magic Mine | Shutterstock.com

Magic Mine | Shutterstock.com

3D printing has transformed the way we approach prosthetics.

Instead of requiring costly and difficult-to-acquire equipment, you can 3D print a leg. What’s more, 3D printing is an additive based construction process, meaning there is minimal waste involved. But now, doctors are taking that concept even further.

3D-printed Titanium has been successfully used to repair a human spinal cord.

A Life-Saving 3D Printed Metal Spine ImplantClick To Tweet
image of patient Xiao Wen for spinal cord repair surgery using 3D Printed Titanium implant
Xiao Wen & Doctors | People’s Daily Online

How Doctors Repaired a Spinal Cord with Titanium

3D printed prosthetic limbs could potentially help more than 30 million people worldwide. Expanding on that existing technology, doctors utilized that approach to repair something more delicate.

The human spine connects the brain stem to the rest of the body, so you can imagine just fragile and intricate repairing it can be. This makes the fact that doctors repaired a spinal cord with 3D printed titanium even more revolutionary.

Chinese doctors at the Shanghai Changzheng Hospital completed a successful spinal cord repair with a 3D printed titanium implant over 13 hours in July. The patient, 28-year-old Xiao Wen, has a rare form of bone cancer which affects the cartilage known as Chondrosarcoma. The predilection toward relapse makes chemotherapy ineffective, but Wen had a tumor that had to be removed. Because there was no implant long enough on the Chinese market for Wen’s spinal cord repair, the doctors got creative.

image of 3D Printed Titanium implant for spinal cord repair surgery
3D Printed Titanium Spinal Implant | People’s Daily Online

The World’s Longest Titanium Implant

While this takes us one step closer to a real life Wolverine, it isn’t quite an Adamantium skeleton.

This also isn’t the first time doctors used a 3D printed vertebrae implant or even a titanium implant.

But, it is the longest implant ever used successfully.

Wen needed to replace a large portion of her spine. As a result, the implant measured 14 centimeters or 5.5 inches in length.

Despite the daunting task of crafting such a long implant, the most difficult aspect was the surgery. Chinese spinal surgeon Xiao Jianru, along with the surgical team, finessed said surgery and Xiao Wen emerged healthily and plus one repaired spinal cord. 

Continued Improvements in Medtech

Other ancillary medical tech advancements include exoskeleton hands, solar powered skin replacements, and a potential head/body transplant.

Several companies are even researching exoskeletons just like the Jaegers of Pacific Rim….well, maybe not just like a Jaeger. Chinese doctors have also utilized other 3D printing specific technology to aid cancer treatment.

What medical miracles could 3D printing perform in the near future?

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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