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3D printer gives man a new spine

By Liu Zhihua | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2016-07-08 09:56

3D printer gives man a new spine

A doctor puts a 3D printed spine to the man surnamed Yuan. [Photo/Provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Doctors in Beijing have used 3D printing to create a new spine for a man after five cancer-riddled vertebrae were removed from his body. The procedure is a world first in terms of the length of vertebrae replaced this way, the doctors say.

On June 12 the man, surnamed Yuan, 40, of Beijing, underwent surgery over six hours to have a 3D-printed implant of multiple thoracic and lumbar vertebral bodies, measuring 19 centimeters, inserted into his spine.

In an earlier operation lasting eight hours, doctors had removed five vertebral posterior structures of the cancer-riddled vertebrae.

The vertebrae were affected by chordoma, a cancer that can occur anywhere in the spine and skull. The surgery's success means he is able to live a normal life after he recovers. With traditional treatment, doctors say, even in the best of circumstances he may have been left paralyzed.

Treatment for chordoma, a slow-growing cancer, usually involves surgery to remove the tumor first, before using chemotherapy or radiotherapy if necessary.

"Chordoma is not that rare for us," said Liu Zhongjun, director of the orthopedics department at Peking University Third Hospital, where the surgery was performed.

"What is rare in this case is that the cancer had affected so many vertebrae. Without 3D printing technology it would have been impossible to treat him."

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