ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Doctors are using a high-tech 3D printer to create or print noses, jaw parts and airways, which have now been used to save one baby's life in spectacular fashion.
"Quite a few of the doctors said that he had a good chance of not leaving the hospital alive," said April Gionfriddo.
Gionfriddo's son, Kaiba, was born with a life-threatening condition that his doctors in Ohio weren't able to treat. He was referred to Pediatric ENT Dr. Glenn Green of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Michigan.
"This was the most severe case of tracheobronchomalacia that I had seen in my career," said Green.
Kaiba's birth defect prevents the walls of the airways from staying open, causing him to turn blue and stop breathing.
"This child, how he was, he cannot go on like that and we have to do something to make a difference," said Green.
They researched a first of its kind solution, never used in a human. Using CT scans, a three-dimensional model of Kaiba's airway was created.
"And on that model, we actually can design the device," said Green.
The printer then prints one thin layer at a time until the structure is created, a nose in this case.
"We were able to make a splint that would fit perfectly with his airway," said Green.
It had never been done before, so emergency FDA approval was necessary, then Green went to surgery.
"When we put the splint on and sutured the bronchus up to the trachea, immediately the lungs started moving and then there was a cheer from the operating room staff, and we knew he'd be OK," Green said.
"It means the world to me, just knowing that something actually worked and was able to save our son's life," said Gionfriddo.
The potential is unimaginable, from reconstructive surgeries for trauma or cancer patients, to one day building organs with human cells fused and grown into the printer structure.
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