(Source: United Artists)
She will receive a follow-up surgery later this month

An 83-year-old woman has received the first custom entire lower jaw implant using a 3D printed model.

Belgium and Dutch scientists from the BIOMED Research Institute at the University of Hasselt in Belgium, along with surgeons from the Orbis Centre in Sittard-Geleen, Xilloc Medical BV, Maastricht and Cam bioceramics BC in the Netherlands, have successfully replaced the entire lower jaw of an elderly woman for the first time using 3D printing technology.

The woman's lower jaw was terribly infected and was completely removed. Traditionally, microsurgical reconstructive surgery is used, but in this case, the process was too time-consuming and dangerous.

Instead, the scientists and surgeons created a custom implant using 3D printing technology. They were able to do this by using a 3D printer, which printed layers of titanium powder. At the same time, a laser is used to bind particles together correctly.

"Once we received the 3D digital design, the part was split up automatically into 2D layers and then we sent those cross sections to the printing machine," said Ruben Wauthle, medical applications engineer for LayerWise. "It used a laser beam to melt successive thin layers of titanium powder together to build the part. This was repeated with each cross section melted to the previous layer. It took 33 layers to build 1mm of height, so you can imagine there were many thousand layers necessary to build this jawbone."

A bioceramic coating is then applied to the implant, which is compatible with the tissue of the patient.

The end result was a brand-new lower jaw that weighed 107 grams. This is just over a third heavier than her real jaw, but researchers said she was able to get used to the weight difference quickly. The time needed to create the implant was much shorter and less riskier than traditional methods, taking only a few hours rather than a few days.

"The advantages are that the surgery time decreases because the implants perfectly fit the patients and hospitalization time also lowers -- all reducing medical costs," said Wauthle. "You can build parts that you can't create using any other technique. For example, you can print porous titanium structures which allow bone in-growth and allow a better fixation of the implant, giving it a longer lifetime."

Only one day after receiving the new jaw implant, the woman was able to speak and eat. The operation was performed in June 2011.

Later this month, a follow-up surgery is scheduled to remove the healing implants that were built into the implant's surface. Once those are removed, a dental bridge will be attached to the jaw, where dentures will be applied.

Source: 3ders

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