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3D Printed Airway Implant Saves Baby Boy’s Life

| Medical Technology, News | May 27, 2013

Kaiba Gionfriddo 3D Printed Implant

Kaiba Gionfriddo is able to breathe easily with the 3D printed airway implant. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Stahl

Researchers at the Unitversity of Michigan have created a life-saving custom made 3D printed implant for a baby boy, which has been recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kaiba Gionfriddo was born with a rare disorder, called tracheobronchomalacia, in which one of the airways to his lungs was collapsing when he exhaled. This caused him to stop breathing and turn blue at 6 weeks old, and even with a mechanical ventilator he stopped breathing virtually every day requiring resuscitations.

“We’d recently had a child in the hospital who died of this, and I said, ‘There has got to be a solution that we can find for these kids,’ ” said coauthor Glenn Green, Kaiba‚Äôs doctor and an associate professor of otolaryngology.

Kaiba had a particularly severe case and doctors didn’t expect him to leave the hospital alive, but Green and his team were able to give him a chance of survival. Glenn Green, M.D., associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Michigan and his colleague, Scott Hollister, a biomedical engineer, had to obtain emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to create and implant a 3D printed tracheal splint. The splint was custom made for Kaiba made from a biopolymer called polycaprolactone.

3D Printed Absorbable Implant

The implant is made from the same material as dissolvable stitches. Photo: University of Michigan Health System

After taking a CT scan of Kaiba’s trachea/bronchus, Green and Hollister set to work on the device using 3D biomaterial printing. Last year on February 9th, 2012, Kaiba received the custom-designed splint at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The 3D printed splint was sewn around Kaiba’s airway to expand the bronchus and provide it with a “skeleton” to allow proper growth. As the implant is made bio-absorbable material in about three years the splint will be reabsorbed by the body, by which time Kaiba’s own tissue will be strong enough to keep his airway open.

“He has not had another episode of turning blue,” says April, Kaiba’s mother. “We are so thankful that something could be done for him. It means the world to us.”

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