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3D Printers Help Head Injury Patients in Australia

  • Phil Mercer

Victims of severe head injuries in Australia are being treated using highly sophisticated customized bone replacements from 3D printers. Australian researchers, who are working with neurosurgeons, say the system is much quicker and cheaper than current manufacturing techniques.

Victims of head trauma often have part of their skull removed. Standard replacement pieces for the skull often involve the use of titanium, and implants can take weeks to make and cost thousands of dollars.

Biomedical researchers at the University of Sydney are testing a new type of bone replacement using 3 dimensional printers.

Dr. Philip Boughton has pioneered the technique, and said it could help patients with serious injuries.

“It can be anything from motor bike accidents situation through to one of our first patients unfortunately walked into a propeller. It's very difficult to salvage skull bone, particularly when the trauma injury is so severe,” he said.

Using a patient's CT scans, 3D printers produce a template of the missing piece of skull.

A customized mould is then created using a material called bone cement. It costs a few hundred dollars and is ready within days.

Researcher Jeremy Kwarcinski said the implant was a perfect fit.

“We used this 3D image to determine exactly the shape and size of the missing segment of bone and so we've treated patients with injuries from sizes of about a twenty cent piece to missing about 40 per cent of the skull,” he said.

The Sydney team believes there is potential for the 3D printing method to produce nose and cheek implants, as well as collar bones and other parts of the body that could aid the recovery of accident and trauma victims in Australia and beyond.

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