Researchers help to produce 3D printed spine implant

3D printed vertebral cage
A spinal implant cage has been developed by RMIT researchers and successfully inserted into a patient to provide relief from severe back pain.

Researchers at RMIT University collaborated with Anatomics and a neurosurgeon to successfully produce a 3D printed vertebral cage for a patient with severe back pain.

Amanda Gorvin who had a severe lower back pain due to the abnormal structure of the fifth lumbar vertebra and severe degeneration of the adjacent disc, her spine surgery specialist Dr Marc Coughlan, at the North Gosford and Prince of Wales Hospitals suggested a spinal surgery.

Due to the unusual shape of Gorvin’s vertebra a standard, off-the-shelf implant would only be slight relief. So, Coughlan turned to Melbourne medical device specialists, Anatomics who worked with Professor Milan Brandt and his team at RMIT’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing at the Advanced Manufacturing Precinct to design and develop a custom-made titanium spinal implant using 3D printing.

Brandt said: “An advantage of 3D printing is that a custom implant can be made of any shape and complex internal architecture for a reasonable cost.”

Specialist teams at Anatomics and RMIT used a CT scan of Gorvin’s spine to create the customised implant and another medical device supplier, LifeHealthcare, provided additional parts.

It has been three months since the surgery and Gorvin has resumed to normal activities without any significant pain.

3D printing is advancing in the aviation, aerospace, automotive and healthcare industries and its ability to create unique and complex titanium implants for specific conditions such as the vertebral cage, shows that 3D printing could be used to provide an ongoing support for patients with chronic pain.

The Centre for Additive Manufacturing at the Advanced Manufacturing Precinct supports research in a range of areas such as bioengineering, aerospace and automotive.