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3D printed rib implant saves a life at Tokuda Hospital, Bulgaria - 3D Printing Industry

Surgeons at the Tokuda Hospital, Sofia, replaced a tumourous rib with a 3D printed implant to save the life of a patient. The rib bone was printed using a 3DGence printer.

Filip Turzyński, 3DGence’s Quality Development Manager, said, “Our 3D printers ensure high 3D dimensional accuracy which was crucial in this particular medical procedure. Individually designed rib model allowed for a very accurate implementation of the new element in place of the removed bone.”

“Replacing the missing rib with a 3D printed segment with the same shape, curve, width, and thickness was possible with the use of 3DGence 3D printer.”

The 3D printed rib bone, on the left without the support structure. Image via 3DGence.
The 3D printed rib bone, on the left without the support structure. Image via 3DGence.

A life-saving surgery

The use of 3D printing technology in medicine is well known, whether it be in research or a life-saving surgery. In the latest such application, Ivaylo Josifov, a 35-year-old man, suffering from a rib tumor was treated.

Josifov went for a simple tonsillitis (inflammation of tonsils) scan, but an X-ray of Josifov chest revealed that he had a tumor in one of his rib bones, a congenital disease that could lead to serious health problems.

Replacement surgery was chosen to be the best method of treating the patient. However, for this, the doctors needed a highly-accurate way to fabricate the rib bone. 3D printing was the method of choice.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Tzvetan Minchev. Dr. Minchev is the Chief of Thoracic Surgery Department at the Tokuda Hospital and winner of the Physician of the Year 2017 award, granted by the Bulgarian Physician Association.

On 3D printing the implant, Dr. Minchev said, “This is a new era in thoracic wall reconstruction for patients with tumors that require bone-cartilage structures to be removed. 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.”

Dr. Tzvetan Minchev (left) with Ivaylo Josifov. Image via 3DGence.
Dr. Tzvetan Minchev (left) with Ivaylo Josifov. Image via 3DGence.

3D printing the rib implant 

The Thoracic Surgery Department was helped by 3dbgprint, a Bulgarian 3D printing service bureau, FDA approved polyamide, to 3D print the implant. Georgi Tolev, Sales Representative at 3dbgprint, explained, “When we had the first model ready, we started working on its sturdiness. Each consecutive model was analyzed and improved until we attained the perfect 3D print of the rib.”

To ensure that the 3D printed bone was safe for the implant, it was sterilized with gamma rays and ethylene oxide, a disinfectant widely used in hospitals.

After the success of the surgery, Tokuda’s surgeons plan to carry out another treatment requiring three 3D printed ribs with a sternum also known as breastbone.