The first 3D-printed spine implant in Germany was used in Görlitz
The operation was without complications. For medicine, however, this is just the beginning: in the future, such implants must be completely tailored to the patient. This is possible when CT scan and 3D printing are combined.
Tools, sculptures and entire houses can nowadays be produced with the 3D printer. A new area that has conquered printing technology is medicine. For some time, hip prostheses have been manufactured in Germany in this way. And in the US, you even dream of a real 3D-printed heart.
But last week there was a new success story from Görlitz Hospital. There, doctors have successfully implanted a spine from the 3D printer for the first time. "The implant we have is not just the first 3D-printed implant, it's the first functional implant," says chief physician Dr. med. Marcus Eif from Görlitz Hospital, who performed the operation. In practical terms, this means that the implant implanted in this way can adapt to the needs of the spine in the patient, thereby aligning the spine even better.
However, the advantages for the chief physician are not there: the implant is shaped so that it has a "very slim silhouette" when penetrating and only unfolds later. Therefore, the surgeon must less strain on the vertebrae and muscles than on a rigid implant. The optimized alignment of the spine also reduces the likelihood that the spine will continue to degenerate and require reoperation.
The operation with the implant was "without any complications," the physician explains. Also the controls after the surgery had shown good results. The desire to carry out such an operation had existed for some time, notes Eif. But only with the CE certification of the implant, it would have been possible. That's why the doctors started using this form of implantation last week and have already treated the third patient, "because it's simply a very good symbiosis for the surgeon and the patient."
Incidentally, the implants would get even better in the future, emphasizes Eif. Then the patient would first be scanned with the CT scanner and the printer programmed with the data obtained, so that "an individual implant at a reasonable price" could arise. Although there are currently various "adjustment options", but the implants would ultimately still "off the shelf".
The implants currently used in Görlitz consist of titanium dust, which is melted point by point with a 3D printer, gradually acquiring the three-dimensional shape of the replacement disc.