Instead of traditional reconstructive surgery, an 83-year-old patient was outfitted with a new jaw that came not from another human body but from a 3D printer. Doctors had decided it was too risky to perform the more common form of surgery because of the patient’s age and fraile condition. And believe it or not, it appears to have been a resounding success.
The operation took place in Europe, with a team of medical professionals from Belgium and the Netherlands involved in the groundbreaking procedure. They used a 3D model of her lower mandible and printed it out using titanium. Upon the successful printing process, the “bone” was sprayed with a compound that made it look and feel more like a real part of a human body. While 3D printing has been used in limited capacity in medical procedures before, never had there been an attempt to use the technology to replace an entire jaw.
This is without a doubt one of the most remarkable uses of 3D printing to date. The still-niche industry is poised to bring monumental changes not only to medicine but to production, manufacturing, and personal consumption. It is even possible to print more than half of the components required for a 3D printer, from a 3D printer (it’s the rest of the printer that’s a bit more difficult). As for the 83-year-old patient, she was able to speak and swallow normally just one day after the surgery, and now has a perfectly functioning mouth.