Thursday, May 23, 2013

Doctors use 3D-printer to create life-saving airway tube, save three-month-old baby

3D printers have been taking hits (pun intended) in the minds of some since the first plans for a 3D printed gun were released on the Internet. The latest tidbit of news around 3D printing is a life-saver, though: On Thursday, doctors described 3D-printing an emergency airway tube that saved a three-month-old baby boy’s life in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Video is embedded. Doctors at the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan undertook the procedure.

April Gionfriddo, mother of Kaiba, the baby boy, said:
Quite a few of the doctors said that he had a good chance of not leaving the hospital alive.
Kaiba suffered from a severe version of tracheobronchomalacia, a birth defect which is "a condition characterized by flaccidity of the tracheal support cartilage which leads to tracheal collapse." In Kaiba's case, it caused his bronchus to collapse.

Specifically, Kaiba had an incompletely formed bronchus, which is one of the two airways that branch off from the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. About 2,000 babies are born with such defects annually in the United States; most of them outgrow the condition by age two or three, as more tissue develops.

In severe cases, though, parents learn of the defect when a child suddenly stops breathing and dies. That nearly happened when Kaiba was six weeks old at a restaurant with his parents. His father, Bryan Gionfriddo, performed CPR to revive him.

Doctors had been researching artificial airway splints, but had not implanted one in a patient. They used a 3D printer to create about 100 of the tiny tubes, and after receiving special permission from the Food and Drug Administration, implanted one of them tubes in Kaiba.

It was the first time something like this has been done -- which explains why they needed special permission from the FDA.

Dr. Glenn Green, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital said:
He's a pretty healthy kid right now.
Kaiba was three months old when the operation was performed last year. He is nearly 19 months old now. Soon, he will have his tracheotomy tube removed; it was implanted when he was about two months old and needed a breathing machine. Since coming home last year, after the procedure, he has had not had a single breathing crisis.

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