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    3D Printed Spine Saves 12 Year Old Boy in China

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    Doctors at China's Peking University Third Hospital have successfully removed a cancerous vertebra from a 12-year old boy and replaced it with a 3D printed implant in a first such procedure worldwide, Forbes reports.

    MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - Doctors at China's Peking University Third Hospital have successfully removed a cancerous vertebra from a 12-year old boy and replaced it with a 3D printed implant in a first such procedure worldwide, Forbes reports.

    “This is the first use of a 3D-printed vertebra as an implant for orthopedic spine surgery in the world," said Dr. Liu Zhongjun, director of the Orthopedics Department at the hospital, as quoted by the CBS News.

    The boy, referred to as Minghao, was diagnosed with cancer following a football accident. The tumor was located on the second vertebra in his neck. He is reported to be in good condition following a five-hour surgery and is expected to recover quickly.

    The implant made out of titanium powder follows the shape of the removed vertebra. It doesn’t need to be secured by screws or cement like traditional implants.

    3D printing enables doctors to tailor orthopedic implants to specific needs of each patient. The technology, also known as “additive manufacturing”, allows producing objects of any imaginable shape. Conventional implants are not nearly as varied and not as durable, according to the Financial Times.

    The 3D printed implants match the bone perfectly. They also have small holes so that the bone could grow around the implant. Therefore, the risk that a 3D implant will get detached from the bone is nonexistent.

    Peking University Third Hospital launched the program in cooperation with a 3D printing company in 2009. A year later the team tested new orthopedic implants. Since the trials were successful, the hospital decided to move to clinical trials.

    “We started clinical trials on 3-D produced implants late last year [2012], and now we have used dozens of such implants in more than 50 patients,” Liu Zhongjun stated, as quoted by the China Daily.  The doctor added that they didn’t observe any undesirable side effects or adverse reaction in any of their patients.

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