Child, First Patient to be Cured of Illness Using 3D-Printed Biodegradable Implant

At the C S Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor treated a three-year-old boy who has become the first patient in the world to be cured of a potentially fatal illness.

Doctors used of biodegradable implant made to the little boy’s exact specifications by 3D printing technology


This was one of three babies in the US who underwent this pioneering emergency surgery. Involved the insertion of 3D printed splints into their throats and was designed to keep their windpipes open while allowing the infants to grow normally.

The first operation was on Kaiba Gionfriddofrom Ohio in 2012 when he was just three months old and suffering fromtracheobronchomalacia. The disease tracheobronchomalacia affects about 1 in 2,000 babies. It causes the windpipe to collapse periodically, preventing normal breathing and leads to health complications and premature death.

This is positive news all around in terms of the potential of 3D printing. Scientists announced that all three boys have responded well to the treatment. Kaiba (the first operation) now deemed to be effectively cured. His biodegradable implant has been partially re-absorbed by his body.

The patient no longer has to rely on the implant completely for breathing.

How are biodegradable implants made?

They're made from a non-toxic, degradable polymer printed layer by layer. The final three-dimensional shape based on information gathered from CT scans of each baby’s windpipe.

Scientists fine-tuned the printing instructions for each device to suit the individual needs of each baby boy. This procedure had never been done before and worked better than ever expected.

This is important because the splint allows the airway to grow and heal over time and reabsorbs as time progresses to leave a normal airway.

All babies with implants are now free of the normal restrictions patients have to live with. They'renNormally treated with powerful drugs and placed on mechanical ventilators.

Currently there is a clinical trial involving about 30 patients with 3D printed throat splints is now being planned. It's also printed out polymer replicas of each boy’s windpipe and lungs so that they could practice on inserting the implant before the actual operation.

It can take between one and two days between scanning a patient and producing an implantable device.