Tracheobronchial Splints

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A recent study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science showed several infants with life-threatening breathing problems are doing better thanks to printable biomaterial airway implants. The created splints were hollow, porous tubes that go outside the collapsed part of the airway. During surgery, tiny sutures are used to attach the walls forming scaffolding that helped support the weakened compromised airway.

Researchers at the University of Michigan made the devices using a 3D printer. These printers are already used to create other types of medical device implants such as custom jaws, hips and hearing devices, for example.

“Today, we see a way to cure a disease that has been killing children for generations,” said Dr. Glenn Green, an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, and one of the study’s authors. “This is the first 3-D printed implant specifically designed to change shape over time to allow for a child’s growth before finally reabsorbing as the disease is cured.”

The implants were made from polycaprolactone material that dissolves in the body over time. To create the individual splints, the researchers used CT scans to make a digital model of the patient’s collapsed airways. Then a custom computer program designed the splint based on the patient’s specific anatomy.

For the full study, please visit The Science Translational Medicine Journal

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