Doctors Use 3-D Printer To Custom-Design Implant For Baby

The infant, named Kaiba Gionfriddo, was diagnosed with a rare disease that caused the collapse of one of his lungs’ airways during exhalation. At barely six weeks old, the issue had already caused him to cease breathing and turn blue.

Kaiba, although being on a mechanical ventilator, stopped breathing almost daily, necessitating resuscitation procedures. Kaiba’s doctor and co-author, associate professor of otolaryngology Glenn Green, explains.

“We’d recently had a child in the hospital who died of this, and I said, ‘there has got to be a solution that we can discover for these kids.'”

Doctors Use 3-D Printer to Custom-Design Implant for Baby

A tiny, adaptable splint was 3D printed for Kaiba specifically, so it can keep up with his development as he gets older. Professor of biological and mechanical engineering and study co-author Scott Hollister said they used a substance that would be metabolised by Kaiba’s body after around three years.

The integration of 3D printing technology into the medical field has ushered in a new era of solutions, from surgical planning to creating implants tailored to individual patients. One of the most promising applications lies in the production of 3D implants.

This article dives into the world of 3D implants, covering their materials, application in various medical sectors, and discussing their benefits and safety.

What are 3D Implants?

3D implants refer to prosthetic devices, scaffolds, or other biomedical structures that are designed and fabricated using 3D printing technology. Through layer-by-layer material deposition, these implants can be customized to fit individual patients with unparalleled precision.

What Materials are Used in 3D Printing Implants?

Materials for 3D printed implants vary based on the intended use. Common materials include:

  • Titanium and its alloys: Widely used due to its biocompatibility, strength, and corrosion resistance.
  • Biodegradable Polymers: Such as polycaprolactone (PCL) and polylactic acid (PLA), which are useful for temporary implants.
  • Ceramics: Like hydroxyapatite, commonly used in bone grafts and dental implants.
  • Bio-inks: These are blends of cells, growth factors, and biomaterials, paving the way for bio-printed implants.

3D Print Used Because of the Fear of Blockage of Baby’s Airways

Late in pregnancy, doctors in Michigan discovered a big lump on the face of a foetus, and they worried it would prevent the infant from breathing when it was born. It was unclear to the doctors whether or not the newborn would require life-support measures to maintain breathing.

The researchers revealed its findings in the Oct. 5 online issue of the journal Pediatrics, explaining how the use of 3D printing technology eliminated the need for speculation. Dr. Albert Woo, a paediatric plastic surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said that this was the first time 3D printing technology has been utilised in utero “to identify facial deformity and severity of airway risk with a newborn.”

After 30 weeks of pregnancy, the 22-year-old mother started having complications. The mother had an ultrasound, but due to the fetus’s position, the images were insufficient. She then had an MRI, but the results still left doctors uncertain as to whether or not her airways would be unobstructed following delivery.

Doctors were concerned that if the baby’s airways were clogged, they would have to perform an intubation (the insertion of a plastic tube into the windpipe) immediately after birth to assist the baby breathe.

Is 3D Printing Used in Surgery?

Yes, 3D printing plays a pivotal role in various surgical procedures:

  1. Pre-surgical Planning: Surgeons can use 3D printed models of patient anatomy to visualize and practice challenging procedures.
  2. Custom Surgical Tools: Tailored to specific surgeries or patients.
  3. Implants and Prosthetics: Customized to fit the patient’s unique anatomy.

How Much Does a 3D Printed Prosthesis Cost?

The cost of a 3D printed prosthesis varies based on complexity, materials, and design. However, 3D printing has made prosthetics more accessible.

While traditional prosthetics can run into thousands of dollars, simple 3D printed prosthetic limbs can be produced for as little as $50 to $500, with more complex designs reaching up to a few thousand dollars.

Are Dental Implants 3D Printed?

Yes, the dental industry has embraced 3D printing. From orthodontic devices to crowns and even dental implants, 3D printing allows for rapid customization and reduced patient waiting times.

What are 3D Printed Body Parts Made Of?

3D printed body parts, especially those meant for transplantation, are often made from bio-inks containing patient-derived cells, ensuring compatibility. For non-living implants, materials like titanium, ceramics, and biocompatible polymers are standard.

How is 3D Printing Used for Plastic Surgery?

In plastic surgery, 3D printing is used for:

  1. Reconstructive Surgery: Custom implants for patients who’ve undergone trauma or surgery, ensuring a natural fit and appearance.
  2. Surgical Planning: Using 3D models to plan cosmetic procedures, allowing patients to visualize results beforehand.
  3. Custom Surgical Guides: Tailored tools to assist surgeons during operations.

Benefits of 3D Implants:

  1. Customization: Tailored to fit individual patient anatomy.
  2. Speed: Faster production compared to traditional manufacturing.
  3. Cost-Effective: Reduces overheads associated with mass production.
  4. Innovation: Allows for intricate designs that were previously challenging or impossible to create.

Are 3D Implants Safe?

When produced using medical-grade materials and following strict sterilization and quality control protocols, 3D implants are generally considered safe. As with all medical procedures and devices, there are inherent risks, but the custom nature of 3D printed implants often means they integrate better with the patient’s body, reducing some complications.


Kaiba’s medical team sought advice from Dr. Glenn Green, MD, an associate professor of paediatric otolaryngology at the University of Michigan. A tracheal splint was custom-made for Kaiba by him and a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Michigan, Scott Hollister, Ph.D., who used a CT scan of Kaiba’s airway to inform the device’s construction.

On February 9, 2012, they put the splint on the bronchus of Kaiba’s left lung after getting urgent approval from the Food and Drug Administration to do so. 3D printing is revolutionizing the medical field, with 3D implants standing at the forefront of this transformation.

From dental reconstructions to intricate bone grafts, the potential applications are vast and continually expanding. As the technology matures and becomes more integrated into the healthcare system, patients stand to benefit immensely from more affordable, customized, and efficient solutions.