CSIRO-developed 3D-printed sternum implanted during surgery

A 3D-printed titanium and polymer sternum has been successfully implanted in a patient in the UK.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Melbourne-based medical implant company Anatomics have teamed up with doctors in the United Kingdom to implant a 3D-printed titanium and polymer sternum into a 61-year-old British patient.

The device recipient had his sternum previously removed due to a rare infection, and since receiving the 3D-printed device he has made a successful recovery, CSIRO said.

The 3D-printed sternum was designed by Anatomics and printed at CSIRO's Lab 22 facility in Melbourne. It is the first time a titanium sternum combined with a synthetic polymer has been used to replace bone, cartilage, and tissue in a patient.

"I'm proud of our cutting-edge work with Anatomics that has enabled patients around the world to regain the ability to walk, to sit-up and lead normal lives," director of CSIRO Manufacturing Dr Keith McLean said.

"Here in Melbourne, we have quietly been developing what we believe is one of the world's most advanced capability in reconstructive prosthetics, and this recent success in the UK demonstrates that."

The operation is the latest success story for the CSIRO-Anatomics partnership, after a 54-year-old cancer patient from Spain received a 3D-printed titanium sternum and rib implant in September 2015, designed and manufactured out of Lab22.

The patient needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced due to a chest wall sarcoma, a type of tumour that grows in and around the rib cage. The CSIRO said at the time the patient's surgical team knew the surgery would be difficult due to the complicated geometries involved in the chest cavity, and decided the customisable 3D-printed sternum and rib cage was the best option.

Once the prosthesis was complete, it was sent to Spain and implanted into the patient. According to the CSIRO, 12 days after the surgery the patient was discharged and recovered well.

That operation followed on from the production of a 3D-printed titanium heel bone that prevented an Australian cancer patient from having his leg amputated in 2014.

Similarly, students at the University of Queensland (UQ) developed a 3D-printed open-source robotic prosthetic limb prototype in 2015.

The prototype took the UQ robotics club six months to develop. The club is also working on a functioning prosthetic forearm and advancing open-source knowledge around the creation of 3D-printed prosthetic limbs.

The prototype arm used sensors that are placed onto the muscles of the amputee which then pick up the electric pulse that the muscles give when they are tensed, which then trigger functionality within the arm.

Brisbane-based Oventus Medical also opened a 3D printing facility at the CSIRO's Clayton, Victoria campus in December, where the publicly-traded medical company hopes to produce its O2Vent device, a customisable, 3D-printed titanium mouthguard designed to ensure optimal airflow and reduce the effects of snoring for sleep apnoea sufferers.

Oventus has been developing O2Vent for almost three years, and an initial prototype of the O2Vent, which completed successful clinical trials, was previously 3D-printed at Lab22.