A Bulgarian man became the first patient to receive a 3D-printed rib implant.
Thirty-five-year-old Ivaylo Josifov went to the doctor for tonsillitis, and came home with an artificial rib.
When a chest X-ray revealed a growth on Josifov’s fifth rib—caused by a congenital defect that could worsen and cause pulmonary problems—doctors decided surgery was the best option.
In a first for Bulgaria (and the world), experts at Tokuda Hospital removed the tumorous bone and replaced it with a 3D-printed rib from local manufacturers 3DGence and 3dBGprint—the latter which actually produced the stand-in.
Headquartered in capital city Sofia, they were able to replicate the skeletal piece’s shape, curvature, width, and thickness to create an identical substitute.
“Our 3D printers ensure high 3D dimensional accuracy which was crucial in this particular medical procedure,” Filip Tuzyński, quality development manager at 3DGence, said in a statement. “[The] individually designed rib model allowed for a very accurate implementation of the new element in place of the removed bone.”
The implant was made using flexible and durable polyamide, certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“When we had the first model ready, we started working on its sturdiness,” according to 3dBGprint sales rep Georgi Tolev. “Each consecutive model was analyzed and improved until we attained the perfect 3D print of the rib.”
Before implantation, 3mm holes were drilled in the printout, which was also sterilized in ethylene oxide, as well as with gamma radiation and autoclaved at 140 ℃ (284 ℉).
Recovering from the operation, Josifov is “in perfect health,” 3DGence reported.
Doctors are already planning new projects using 3D-printed implants. Up next: a model of three ribs with a sternum.
“This is a new era in thoracic wall reconstruction for patients with tumors that require bone-cartilage structures to be removed,” Tzvetan Minchev, head of the cardiothoracic surgery department at Tokuda Hospital, said. “The material used has proven tissue compatibility and the accuracy of reproduction allows for large chest wall resections and their single substitution with individually designed implants.”