Neurosurgeons have successfully replaced the complete skull of a 22-year-old woman with a plastic custom-made 3D-printed skull implant in a surgical procedure that lasted 23 hours. This makes the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht the first hospital in the world to perform this kind of operation.
This video shows the highlights of the procedure; make sure the captions are on to read the English subtitles (warning: not for sensitive viewers)…
The patient who received the new skull suffers from a condition that thickens the bone structure, particularly that of the skull. “The condition initially manifests itself in severe headaches,” explained Dr Bon Verweij. “The thickening of the skull puts the brain under increasing pressure. Ultimately, she slowly lost her vision and started to suffer from motor co-ordination impairment. It was only a matter of time before other essential brain functions would have been impaired and she would have died. So intensive surgery was inevitable, but until now there was no effective treatment for such patients.”
Using 3D printing ensures that the implants are an exact fit. This has major advantages, not only cosmetically but also because patients often have better brain function compared with the old method. This technique has enabled Verweij, together with Anatomics, specialists in 3D printing, to replace an entire skull.
UMC Utrecht is now able to help other patients with such conditions as well. This technique can also be used for patients with other bone deformities, to reconstruct skull that have been severely damaged in an accident, or due to tumours.
Verweij reported that all went well with the procedure. “It’s now three months after the operation. The patient has fully regained her vision, she has no more complaints, she’s gone back to work and there are almost no traces that she had any surgery at all.”
Source: UMC Utrecht