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3D printed ribs
Health Innovation Technology

Patient Successfully Receives First Ever 3D-Printed Rib Implant

Cardiac surgeons at the Tokuda Hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria performed an innovative surgery – they implanted a rib in the human body that was made on a 3DGence 3D printer. This type of surgery is one of the first cases on the planet and a breakthrough for the world of medicine.

Ivaylo Josifov with the Cardiac Surgeon

The patient that received this 3D printed rib was 35-year-old Ivaylo Josifov. He had always been physically active and healthy up until getting tonsillitis whereupon he went to the hospital for treatment. The team of doctors controlled his referral to lung X-rays.

Upon observation, they discovered the man was suffering from a progressive deformity in the area of the fifth right rib, accompanied by swelling and pain. It was a congenital disease that could lead to a weakening of the chest and problems associated with a physical strain like difficulty breathing. In other words, there was a tumor formation in the rib. The best solution for a situation such as this is to remove the bone and replace it with an implant because of the risk that the disease could expand.

3D printed ribs

The doctors chose to use 3D printing technology because it guarantees a perfect representation of the original rib shape, both in terms of its thickness and curvature. Absolute anatomical compatibility and precision of the implant were required in this case and 3D printing technology is the perfect solution as it ensures accuracy. It was possible to replace the unhealthy rib with a 3D printed segment with the same shape, curve, width, and thickness by using a 3DGence 3D printer. It was important that the rib should anatomically fit into the other structures of the chest wall to ensure correct reconstruction.

X-ray of the damaged rib

How They Made The Rib:

  • Through an initial 3D visualization, the bone was scanned at the hospital.
  • Then the scan was delivered to 3dbgprint.
  • The company adjusted the 3D model.
  • Then prepared it for 3D printing.
  • They printed the rib using flexible and durable polyamide, certified by the FDA (American Food and Drug Administration).
  • They had to re-print several ribs testing each one for sturdiness, improving it every time, until they attained the perfect 3D print of the rib.

3D printed rib models

Rib Preparation And Sterilization Process Pre-Implantation:

  • Holes 3 mm big were drilled in the 3D printed model to facilitate broaching and proliferation of connective tissue.
  • It was then properly sterilized in ethylene oxide,
  • Then also sterilized using gamma radiation and autoclaved at 140°C (284°F).

Follow-ups confirm the operation was a success and the patient is in perfect health. The doctors are now planning new projects using implants printed in 3D technology. Their next venture involves creating an implant of 3 ribs with a sternum.

We now live in a very exciting time to be alive. Today is a new era in thoracic wall reconstruction when patients with tumors that require bone-cartilage structures to be removed can get a perfect fit replacement without worry. It is proven that the material used has tissue compatibility. Furthermore, the accuracy of reproduction allows for large chest wall resections as well as single substitution with individually designed implants.

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