An infant with a condition called tracheobronchomalacia was saved by doctors by 3D-printing a tracheal splint which would support the weakened airway. Tracheobronchomalacia manifests with dynamic airway collapse and respiratory insufficiency.
Doctors implanted a customized, bioresorbable tracheal splint, created with a computer-aided design based on a computed tomographic image of the patient’s airway and fabricated with the use of laser-based three-dimensional printing, to treat this life-threatening condition.
The splint was custom-made just for the child and designed to hold the trachea in place as the bronchus builds around it, giving it strength. In two to three years, the trachea will be able to stand on its own, and the polycaprolactone biomaterial used to create the splint will be absorbed into the body.
Seven days after placement of the airway splint, weaning from mechanical ventilation was initiated, and 21 days after the procedure, ventilator support was discontinued entirely and the child was discharged home with the tracheostomy in place. One year after surgery, imaging, and endoscopy showed a patent left mainstem bronchus. No unforeseen problems related to the splint have arisen. Full resorption of the splint was estimated to occur in three years.
Source: New England Journal of Medicine