Doctors at Peking University have successfully implanted the first 3D printed vertebrae in a young patient. The patient, a 12 year old boy, had a malignant tumour in his spinal cord. After hours of specialized spinal cord surgery, doctors replaced a section of cancerous vertebra in his neck with the 3D printed piece. 3D printing creates layer upon layer of material in specific patterns or shapes to make a 3D object from a digital model. Materials in 3D printing are usually polymers and metals, and in this case, a titanium powder which is a traditional orthopedic implant material. As far as tradition goes, that’s where the similarities end. Because of the limitations of traditional orthopedic implant manufacturing - normally in geometric-type shapes with less realistic shaping or conformity to the bones, implants typically don’t attach to the bone without orthopedic cement or screws.
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