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The key to OPM's 3D printed skull is a special biocompatible polymer called PEKK that that bone cells populate and supplement with normal bone.  (Source: OPM)
New prosthetic technology just scored FDA approval

Approximately 500 people in the U.S. -- included injured construction workers and wounded soldiers -- have suffered traumatic head injuries, but remain in danger of medical complications or dying due to damage to their skull.  That could soon change thanks to an exciting new implant technology from Oxford Performance Materials in Connecticut.

On Feb. 18 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full approval for OPM's technology that prints replacement skulls using 3D printing techniques and polyetherketoneketone (PEKK).  The OPM technology only gained FDA approval after surviving extensive clinical trials.

Unlike most polymers, the human body does not attack PEKK (hence it is "biocompatible") and it is also mechanically similar to bone.  PEKK is also radiolucent, which means it won't interfere with X-rays.

The printing process does not rely on tooling, but instead uses digital CAD file and a 3D printer.  Perhaps the most intriguing part of the implant, though, is its built in micropatterning, which encourages bone cells to innervate the implant and deposit bone, which merges with the implant.  In other words, the patient's own body helps to finish the construction job the high-tech implant starts.
 
To undergo the process, OPM's technicians spend two weeks scanning the patient's skull.  In a test operation, one patient had 75 percent of his skull replaced with a PEKK prosthetic.  The unnamed patient appears to be in excellent health post surgery.

Sources: Oxford Performance Materials, News AU





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