In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine today, two doctors from the University of Michigan described how they saved an infant with a life-threatening respiratory disorder using a custom-designed 3D-printed device. Printed with bio-absorbable plastic, the device is holding the child's airway open and allowing him to breathe normally.
The child, Kaiba Gionfriddo, suffered from tracheobronchomalacia—a collapse of the airway to one of his lungs. The condition prevented him from breathing out carbon dioxide and getting sufficient oxygen. At six weeks old, he was out with his family at a restaurant when he started to turn blue. By the time he was two months old, he had to have a breathing tube inserted into his trachea to keep him alive.
Dr. Glenn Green, MD, the associate professor of pediatric otolarygololgy at the University of Michigan, was called in by Kaiba's doctors to consult on the case. He and Dr. Scott Hollister, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan, worked together to design a tracheal splint for Kaiba, using a CT scan of his respiratory tract to create a model of the device. They obtained emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to surgically implant their creation and installed the splint on the bronchus of Kaiba's left lung on February 9, 2012.
“The material we used is a nice choice for this," Hollister said in a release published by the University of Michgan. "It takes about two to three years for the trachea to remodel and grow into a healthy state, and that’s about how long this material will take to dissolve into the body.”