Life Saving Creativity- 3D Printed Titanium Spine

India enters the age of patient-specific 3D -printed implants with India’s first successful implantation of an artificial 3D-printed vertebrae that allowed a young woman to walk again.


Tuberculosis is considered as a disease of the lungs, but that is not always the case. For young 32 year teacher, the disease affected her spine -- in 10 different vertebrae!


Her condition deteriorated quickly; the disease caused such extensive damage to her first, second and third cervical (neck) vertebrae that she no longer had any support between her skull and lower spine. As a result, her head was sliding forward and her posture curved in a way that obstructed her spinal cord, resulting in progressive weakness in her limbs. She was also at risk of quadriplegia (weakness in all limbs) and even death, if her respiratory nerves were to become compressed; but after a first-of-its-kind surgery in India, she can now hope to lead a near normal life.


The team of surgeons led by Dr. V Anand Naik, Senior Consultant, Spine Surgery, Bone & Joint Institute Medanta the Medicity Gurgaon replaced the damaged vertebrae to bridge the gap between the first and fourth cervical vertebrae.


Dr. V Anand Naik, said, ”It was a very complex surgery and patient’s condition was deteriorating each day. It would have been really difficult to do it without the 3D printing technology.”


“It is an effective method of surgery since everything is planned before, and adds a new dimension to complex spine reconstruction especially with difficult anatomy and complex tumours and infection,” he added.


Dr. Gopal Kumar, Consultant, Head and Neck Onco Surgeon, said, ”The challenge for our team was to reach high into the neck without altering the position of the patient. The anterior approach and small working field, in cases such as these, are a necessity. As the patient is also a singer, preservation of laryngeal nerve was of prime importance. Swallowing, chewing and movement of tongue-all were at risk.”      


Dr. Rahul Jain, lead designer of the 3D implant said, "It was quite a challenge to design this implant because of the patient’s complex anatomy. We also had to make sure that the implant should not impinge on the spinal cord or any other vital structures and which is a big achievement for the implant design team.”


3D printing technology with its wide array of application has opened up a whole new vista which promises to alter medical landscape in near future.