After suffering a horrific motorcycle accident, 23-year-old Jessica Cussioli was left without a large portion of her skull. Neurosurgeons in Brazil have now come to the rescue by performing the country’s first-ever transplant of a 3D-printed titanium skull.
As reported in 3ders, the bones across the right side of Cussioli’s head were badly fractured, and she had a 4.7-inch (12-cm) long hole across her skull. As she awaited surgery, Cussioli complained of body aches, pains, dizziness, headaches, and malaise.
Her family scrambled to find a solution. Most options proved prohibitively expensive, with some estimates reaching as high as R$130,000 (USD$41,500). In desperation, they sought out more radical solutions, which led them to the Hospital de Clinicas of UNICAMP (Universidade Estadual de Campinas) in Campinas. Surgeons there had previously experimented with 3D printed titanium implants.
Using CT scans, the developers at med-tech firm Biofabris constructed a virtual model of Cussioli’s skull. But before surgery could begin, the neurosurgeons had to get approval from the University’s board of ethics; titanium isn’t a material approved by Anvisa — Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency. Once approval was acquired, the team produced 3D-printed plates in both resin and titanium (the resin portion was used as a surgical model).
3ders explains why the surgeons chose to use titanium:
While other implant options, including bone excerpts and acrylic resin, were also considered, the Brazilian doctors resorted to 3D printed titanium due to its high level of detail and the minute risk of rejection. ‘The polymethylmethacrylate often leads to a rejection process. This rejection may cause small or large wounds in a person, in the scalp or the face. Titanium, in turn, is a biocompatible material,’ one expert said. Researcher Luis André Biofrabris Munhoz, who also worked on the project, added that titanium is one of the most stable materials for implants. ‘It has a strong mechanical resistance and corrosion resistance when placed inside the human body, and it is a lightweight material. The patient’s recovery process is similar to when recovering from a bone fracture,’ he said.
Plastic surgery professor Paulo Khamandayan was quoted in 3dprint as saying: “This procedure exists in other countries. The novelty is that this procedure is done with national knowledge. For us it is a breakthrough, because it facilitates the reconstruction, allows an aesthetic result very close to what it was before and adds value to scientific skills and manufacturing in Brazil.”
The surgery, which was performed by Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), is considered a success. Cussioli says she’s feeling much better.
“I want to graduate, go back to work, go out with my friends, dating ... Now it’s normal life,” she was quoted as saying at the Biofabris website.