It’s hard to imagine something so simple could save a child’s life. But that’s exactly what this small device built on 3-D printer did. University of Michigan doctors designed and implanted the tracheal splint inside Kaiba Gionfriddo, now 20 months old.
The tiny collar was made to treat Kaiba’s tracheobronchomalacia, a condition in which the airways collapse when breathing or coughing. It was created directly from a CT scan of the collapsed area using a laser-based 3-D printer. The printer constructed the splint using polycaprolactone, a biodegradable polyester that is slowly absorbed by the body over a few years. It was sewn around the airway to keep it open and give support so more tissue could grow.
The doctors described their groundbreaking treatment in New England Journal of Medicine letter published on May 23.
(A scan-based 3-D printed cast of the patient’s airway with the splint in place. Courtesy University of Michigan.)
Top Image: The groundbreaking 3-D printed device that opened up a baby’s airway. Courtesy University of Michigan.