Developing an implant that is lightweight and non-absorbent
In rare cases, sternums need to be removed from patients. Previously sternum implants have been made from cement, surrounded by a synthetic mesh. These are heavy, absorbent and prone to infection.
When surgically inserting these implants, there is risk of infection to the patient because manual handling is needed to carve the correct cement shape to the patients' ribs.
A customisable titanium and polymer sternum
Aided by CT scans, we can 3D print titanium body parts that precisely replicate a patient's existing bones. This means the sternum is already customised to a patients' needs, without any need for structural changes in the operating room.
A polymer called PoreStar is then added as padding around the titanium sternum, replacing tissue and cartilage around the titanium sternum. The polymer is porous and has bone-like architecture which means both hard and soft tissue can lock in to the implant.
We jointly developed this polymer with Anatomics 3-4 years ago.
Titanium can be polished so it is non-abrasive. It's also corrosion resistant and readily shaped to the patients’ needs, resulting in less manual handling. It is also non-absorbent and readily accepted by a human body.
World-first successful implant surgery in the UK
In conjunction with Anatomics and surgeons in the UK, we have successfully implanted a 3D printed titanium and polymer sternum into a patient suffering from a rare infection.
The infection started eating away at his sternum and medication didn't help. His sternum was then removed, leaving his heart and lungs particularly vulnerable.
Edward Evans is the first patient to ever receive a titanium and polymer sternum, customised for his ribs based on CT scans.
He has made a successful recovery and his ribs move in and out, in rhythm with his breathing.