The sternum, commonly called breastbone, is a long and flat bony plate located on top of the heart and at the center of the chest. It connects the rib bones together and it functions in protecting the heart, lungs and blood vessels from physical trauma. However, certain conditions can lead to the disintegration of the sternum which include chest injuries and growth of tumor.
Researchers from the TangDu Hospital of the Fourth Military Medical University made the first 3D printed titanium sternum and implanted it on a 54 year old patient who suffered from an aggressive tumor which made the doctor decide to conduct the dangerous sterna surgery. Under the supervision of Dr. Wang Xiaoping, he also acknowledged the problem of the patient indicating that the removal of the sternum is appropriate due to the large tumor that can cause a lot of problems in the chest region including respiratory problems and heart problems.
To solve the problem, they created a 3D printed titanium alloy sternum which is the exact replica of the patient’s chest structure. To make the procedure challenging, this was the first ever procedure in the world thus careful planning was carried out by the researchers. They created a 1:1 scale 3D printed plastic model of the patient’s sternum before printing the final titanium sterna implant.
The surgery was successful and the patient is slowly recovering from it. It is believed that this was the first 3D printed titanium sterna implant ever conducted in the world and the Chinese doctors were successful in their endeavors.