3D-printed tracheal splint supports baby's airways, saves life

Nicole Lee
N. Lee|05.23.13

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3D-printed tracheal splint supports baby's airways, saves life

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and nowhere was it more necessary than in the case of Kaiba Gionfriddo's life. The infant was born with a condition called tracheobronchomalacia that results in weakened support for the trachea, and his fate seemed all but decided until researchers at the University of Michigan proffered an unlikely solution: a 3D-printed tracheal splint. The splint was custom-made just for the child and designed to hold the trachea in place as the bronchus builds around it, giving it strength. In two to three years, the trachea will be able to stand on its own, and the polycaprolactone biomaterial used to create the splint will be absorbed into the body. After a successful operation, Kaiba was taken off ventilator support -- and he hasn't needed it since. From 3D-printed skull prosthetics to this recent innovation, it's clear 3D printing has a far more noble future than just making pizza.

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