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Woman saved by pioneering 3D printed spine in China

 
  • The Chinese patient’s neck tumour encroached six bones in the spine column 
  • Doctors had the damaged bones removed and replaced with artificial bones
  • The 3D replacement is first of its kind in the world, Chinese media claimed 

Tracy You For Mailonline

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Doctors in China have treated a patient who had a massive neck tumour by giving her a pioneering 3D printed spine.

The female patient, 28, had to have six consecutive cervical vertebrae replaced because they had been affected by the rare cancer, reported People’s Daily Online.

Cervical vertebrae, seven in total, form a person’s spine column in the neck and are the most delicate bones in the body.

Doctors used a life-size model to help make the artificial neck bones using 3-D printing technology

Doctors used a life-size model to help make the artificial neck bones using 3-D printing technology

The X-ray scan showed Xiao Wen's new spine column in the neck after the cutting-edge surgery

The X-ray scan showed Xiao Wen's new spine column in the neck after the cutting-edge surgery

The patient, in China, was given a new spine column in the neck (right, post-surgery X-ray) after doctors made six artificial bones using a life-size model (left) and 3D printing technology

The report said this was the first time doctors were able to build so many consecutive cervical vertebrae using 3D printing technology in the world.

The patient, known by a pseudonym Xiao Wen, was diagnosed in May with chondrosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that begins in the bones.

The tumour is said to have encroached the second to the seventh cervical vertebra on Xiao Wen’s spine.

WHAT IS CHONDROSARCOMA?

Chondrosarcoma is a very rare form of bone cancer.

It affects the cartilage, the tough covering on the ends of the bones.

The disease is typically slow growing, and commonly affects 

  • the pelvis
  • thighs (femur)
  • upper arms (humerus)
  • shoulder blades (scapula) 
  • ribs

The most common sign of chondrosarcoma is pain, and the area can become swollen and tender to touch.

The cancer can occur at any age but it is more common in people over the age of 40, and is slightly more common in men.

Source: Macmillan Cancer Support

After failing to find effective treatment from other hospitals, the woman, weighing 19 stone, went to the Shanghai Changzheng Hospital for medical advice. 

Medical scans showed that Xiao Wen had chondrosarcoma.

A team of doctors, led by Professor Xiao Jianru, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon in China, carried out several consultations with the patient.

Doctors said the type of cancer was hard to be treated with chemotherapy and was prone to relapse. In order to cure it, they would have to remove the whole tumour.

Xiao Wen’s damaged bones would also need to be removed and replaced with artificial ones.

Due to the length of the damaged spine, no artificial replacement on the Chinese market could meet the requirement, so the team decided to build one, according to another report on People’s Daily Online.

After Xiao Wen agreed to the plan, Professor Xiao and his team spent three weeks building the artificial bones using 3D printing technology. 

They made a real-size model of Xiao Wen’s cervical vertebrae to help with the process. 

Xiao Wen (middle) thanked her doctors after the first-of-its-kind surgery saved her life

Xiao Wen (middle) thanked her doctors after the first-of-its-kind surgery saved her life

Xiao Wen (middle) thanked her doctors after the first-of-its-kind surgery saved her life

Doctors carried out a 13-hour operation to remove the patient's bones before replacing them

Doctors carried out a 13-hour operation to remove the patient's bones before replacing them

Doctors carried out a 13-hour operation to remove the patient’s bones before replacing them

The new bones, measuring around 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) long, were made with titanium alloy.

The doctors carried out the unprecedented surgery in July.

They removed the six cervical vertebrae from Xiao Wen before putting in the 3D printed bones. The operation lasted 13 hours.

Xiao Wen has been discharged from the hospital and is recovering. She is able to walk now, but has difficulties turning her head, according to the reports.

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