Three babies breathing easier thanks to 3D printing

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 - 3d printed splint
3D model of baby's airway with polycaprolactone splint.
Source: University of Michigan Health System

Time for a happy update on a story that appeared in Health Imaging and elsewhere a couple years ago.

In an article published May 23, 2013, in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) detailed the story of young Kaiba Gionfriddo, an infant born with a rare condition called tracheobronchomalacia. This condition causes airway collapse and respiratory insufficiency, and even though Kaiba had a tracheostomy tube, he would constantly have trouble breathing and required resuscitation daily.

In 2012, Glenn Green, MD, of UM’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used CT images of Kaiba’s airway to create a 3D printed, custom-sized, resorbable splint. The splint was made from polycaprolactone, a biopolymer that would later dissolve harmlessly, and the bellowed design of the splint made it flexible and able to expand with growth.

Positive results came quickly. Kaiba was able to be weaned from mechanical ventilation and in less than a month was completely off the ventilator and discharged home.

The news this month comes from the latest issue of Science Translational Medicine where Green and colleagues report that not only is Kaiba still doing well, but that two other babies with tracheobronchomalacia have been treated in a similar manner.

"At the time of publication, these infants no longer exhibited life-threatening airway disease," wrote Green and colleagues.

You can read more about 3D printing in the latest issue of Health Imaging. Below, you can also see a video of baby Kaiba produced by UM in 2013 following his successful treatment: