Surgeon Adel Helmy is using 3D printed titanium plates to replaces parts of patients’ skulls.
The procedure has been around for decades, but previously, the plates were made by hand and would be hammered into shape during surgery to fit the patient’s skull. The process left a lot of room for accuracy and as many as 1 out of every 10 patients would get an infection because of it.
The 3D printed plates, in comparison, are quicker to make, more accurate, more efficient and subsequently, with exponentially lesser chances of causing infection. The plates are also cheaper to manufacture.
The plates are designed using hospital scans of the patients’ skulls. The scans, along with the designs are sent to a 3D printing plant near Cardiff. The manufacturing process has multiple layers to it, which when finished, are then polished and sent to the hospital again.
So far, at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, none of the patients who have had these titanium plates fitted in surgery have gotten infected. The team behind the developments hope to make the service accessible to more hospitals across the UK.
3D printing was an inaccessible, expensive technology even a few years ago. In the span of a few years, the technology has made its place in all major sectors of the world, with manufacturing procedures increasingly shifting towards 3D printing options. These sectors include medical, construction, consumer goods, and the list goes on.