Surgeons at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital implanted 3D-printed splints to open up the airways of 18-month-old Garrett Peterson. It was only the second time the 3D printed splints were used to save a life.
Garrett had spent his entire life in a hospital tethered to ventilators, yet from time to time, he would still stop breathing. His condition was putting pressure on his airways, eventually causing them to collapse into small slits.
Using a CT scan and CAD software, physicians created a 3D model of Garrett’s airway and designed custom splints to fit onto his bronchi.
The splints were made with selective laser sintering, a 3D technique where successive layers of powdered material -- in this case bioresorbable compounds -- are heated together with a laser.
Once printed, the splints were sewn onto both branches of Garrett's bronchi to expand the airways and give them external support for proper growth. Over about three years, the splint will be reabsorbed by the body and his trachea should be fully functional on its own.
To learn more about Garrett's story, watch this video.