Earlier in the month, we reported how the field of 3D manufacturing in India is gearing up to have a golden period in the times ahead. And now, the country has finally entered the age of 3D printed body parts.

Recently, a team of doctors from Gurgaon's Medanta successfully performed a surgery on the failing spine of a woman and inserted a 3D printed titanium implant giving the 32-year-old teacher a completely new life.

Not only was the surgery successful, the teacher who is also a dancer and singer by passion was able to walk on her feet miraculously just four days after the heavy surgery. According to doctors, if the surgery would have involved traditional surgical techniques, the patient would have taken several months to walk.

Till last month, talking and walking, the two human bodily movements that human beings take for granted, were a herculean task for the patient. After the TB bug slowly consumed the second and third vertebra in her neck, it had slowly started collapsing. In addition to this, her spinal cord had also started getting compressed, resulting in her losing sensation on all her limbs. All this made her day-to-day life a very difficult one to survive.

This is when a team of 10 health specialists from Medanta came to her rescue and decided to deploy for the very first time in India a custom made ultra-modern 3D printed titanium implant to replace the two infected vertebra in her neck in a surgery that spanned over ten hours. A similar surgery has been attempted once last year in Australia and last to last year in China.

According to the team of specialists, the other option that they were considering was to use a piece of bone from the patient's own leg but that particular method would have kept her in the bed for more than 6 months after the surgery. But when they presented the patient with both the options, she courageously decided to go with the 3D one.

"We did the body part reconstruction with a 3D printed vertebra in a damaged spine of a patient who was getting quadriplegic. This was done for the first time in the country and probably for the third time in the world," said lead surgeon Dr V Anand Naik in a statement.

By making use of x-rays and high resolution Cat-scans, a virtual 3D computer model was prepared of the damaged part of the patient's spine. The next step involved designing a suitable replacement on the computer, which was then sent to a 3D printer in Bareilly, India where the titanium implant was specifically made for the patient layer by layer using lasers.

According to details made public by Medanta, the 3-cm-long specially designed medical metal cage was made with 154 grams of high-grade titanium and costed under one lakh rupees. Finally, this cage placed between the head and the torso of the patient relieving pressure on her spinal cord.

Dr Rahul Jain, lead designer of the 3D implant at Medanta said, "Actually it was quite difficult to design this implant because of the complex anatomy of the spine. Titanium implants are totally safe, as these are bio-compatible and it was also made sure that it would not impinge on the spinal cord."

The surgery can definitely be considered as a big step towards using innovation to help patients in India. According to experts, using regular implants can prove to be extremely challenging in some cases as the bones of the patient have to be manipulated in order to ensure that the implant fits perfect. But now, by making use of this 3D technology, the bone implant can be custom-made for the patient

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