A report from China News Service describes how a three-year old received a new 3D printed skull.
The patient, three-year old Hanhan, apparently underwent a successful skull transplant surgery on July 15th to implant a 3D printed skull. We are not certain whether this actually happened, but it’s certainly an interesting proposition.
As you can see from the images, Hanhan’s skull is quite large compared to what you’d normally expect. The report says the patient is known as the “big-head baby”.
It may be that this oversized natural skull is the reason for the transplant – to replace it with one of proper size.
This body growth during childhood is a problem for 3D printing. While normal bones do grow naturally, a 3D printed part implanted to take its place will not.
So what would you do in the case of a 3D printed skull? Would you implant a small version, only to require a second transplant later to put in a larger version? How many times would you have to do this? How would a patient survive all the complex surgeries required? And, who would pay for the no doubt incredible cost of such operations?
Another clue is seen in the image here, where we can see what might be the actual skull print. It is segmented, and that may provide a way for the skull to expand over time as the rest of the body grows. This is quite similar to how a natural skull works: it’s not a solid piece but is several segments.
Here we see little Hanhan post-surgery, where the skull visibly appears smaller, indicating success, at least for the surgical operation. Time will tell whether the venture has succeeded as Hanhan grows to adulthood.
True or not, the idea of such a transplant generates many questions on the designs required to replace body parts with 3D printed equivalents.