Following four years of research, an additively manufactured titanium mandible was successfully implanted by the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital/Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in a patient with head and neck cancer. The mandible was entirely additively manufactured using 3D MRI & CT scans of the patient based on the joint research between the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek/NKI and Mobius 3D Technologies (M3DT), Velsen-Noord, the Netherlands.
Typically, tumours in and around the mandible are treated by removing part of the mandible and replacing it with bone from elsewhere in the body. The problem with this reconstruction method, however, is that the bones are said to break in about 40% of the cases and/or the screws by which the bones are attached become loose. This has necessarily drastic consequences for the patient.
This titanium mandible is much stronger than bone, with forces optimally distributed via a mesh structure within the implant which enables that strength whilst remaining lightweight for the patient. This additively manufactured implant also features a new fastening technique which is intended to ensure that the implant remains in place, and because the implant is bespoke, the jaw fits the patient well enough to enable vital functions like talking, drinking and eating.
The tools used by the surgeon in the operation are also patient specific, enabling a simpler, shorter operation and, thus, minimising the risk of complications.