A three-year-old girl in China has received the first ever artificial skull thanks to cutting edge 3D printing technology. The young patient, known as Han Han, received three 3D printed titanium mesh skull implants, replacing the entire top portion of her skull.
Having received the first ever full skull reconstruction surgery via 3D printing technology Han Han will now be able to lift her head off of her pillow for the first time. At the Second People’s Hospital of Hunan Province in China, the little girl underwent the 17 hour surgery after having suffered from a rare disorder causing her head to grow four times larger than normal size. Translated from Chinese as “whole brain shrinking plastic surgery, the procedure involved the reconstruction and printing of a new titanium skull in 3D in order to reposition her brain.
“CT results showed that Han Han’s brain was filled 80 percent with water,” stated Dr. Bo of the Second People’s Hospital of Hunan Province. “If she was not sent to hospital for treatment, Han Han would not have survived the summer. We had to first eliminate the infection in Han Han’s head because the brain wound area was too large, and we needed to do skin graft surgery and insert a shunt to help eliminate the infection, and remove the fluid from her brain.”
Han Han’s father, Chen Youzhi, was strapped for cash when the child’s mother left her at 1 year old. Youzhi was able to scrape together donations of 100,000 Chinese Yuan from friends and family in order to reach the goal of 400,000–500,000 Chinese Yuan (approximately $64,000–$80,000) for his daughter’s surgery. It was via donations online that Youzhi was able to get this life-saving surgery his daughter that would change her life.
Surgeons used 3D data along with a CT scanner to develop models for 3D printing of three mesh skull implants made out of titanium that would replace the entire top portion Han Han’s skull. The process consisted of peeling her scalp from the skull and attaching it to protective saline pads. Then, drainage tubes were placed in her head, slowly releasing the CSF. Finally, the surgeons took their three 3D-printed titanium implants and placed them into her head, recreating a new skull for her.
The very first 3D printer full skull reconstructive surgery in the world was a success after Han Han was breathing and opened her eyes prior to being transferred for recovery to the ICU. As Han Han continues growing, her own bone will continue to grow and surround the titanium implants, leading to the top of her skull becoming stronger. It is expected Han Han will make a full recovery.
3D printing has aided in the improvement of many infants’ lives besides Han Han, such as Gabriel Manderville. Baby Gabriel suffered from epileptic seizures and began to forget the fundamentals he had learned. Gabriel underwent a successful hemispherectomy treatment in which a 3D-print brain replica ensuring further mental development as well as allowing him to be free of seizures.
The 3D printing revolution has led to rapid innovation in the medical world. Medical 3D printing first started with devices such as the hearing aid. Now there are 3D-printed bone replacements, implants, and soon human tissue. 3D printing advancements have helped people change how they perceive medical illnesses.