First 3D printed plastic skull transplant

Exactly a year ago I wrote about the first patient who had 75% of his skull replaced with a 3D-Printed skull (made of polyetherketoneketone, see the post here). Now, a year later, broke the news: there has been the first successful transplant of a plastic 3D printed skull.

The patient, a 22 year old woman whose skull has never stopped growing, and hence put her life in danger, is the brand new owner of a transparent skull. You can read the whole story here, or on The Independent website, and watch the incredible video.

What more can you say to that, except that I suppose we are waiting now to see developing a whole industry of custom designed body parts, in various shapes/sizes, colours/with direct view to the brain or not etc. We are definitely entering a new phase in defining the human body.

For a comprehensive review of the use of 3D printing for the human body you should read the Bone Benefits of 3D Printing post of These Bones of Mine (from hip replacements, and maxillofacial reconstruction to the “practical” downsides and opportunities of such medical/technological innovations).

Photo: UMC Utrecht



5 thoughts on “First 3D printed plastic skull transplant

    1. Yes indeed, good timing! And thank you for reminding me of your comprehensive review, as I’ll include the post’s link in my post for further details.
      Personally, I have problems with what is happening, but I am sure the anthropologists of the future will have to cope with things way different than we had to 🙂

      1. Ah I didn’t mean to highlight it, but thank you very much for the link 🙂 I think there is a lot to consider when using 3D printing in surgical procedures. Long term implications definitely need to be considered. What are your problems with it? You’ve intrigued me!

      2. Well, I know you did not highlight it- it had just slipped my mind, so thank you for reminding. As for my problems with it, besides the long term implications, I am not comfortable with the idea of turning body parts into plastic, as I think the bone material (and the body) is more than just a material like any other, it is alive, and replacing it with something dead and artificial may have implications on the functioning of the whole organism. One thing is to get a hip replacement or a piece of mandible (and still, i do not understand why you need to 3D print it in plastic? can not there be something more organic, like bone tissue developed in the lab?), and a whole different thing is to get a whole skull! or heart! where are we gonna draw the line between humans and non-humans then? Of course I can understand the benefits for those ill, and i am not trying to say that we should let them die, but I think we should think more about what this will do for our species (to put it like this) and to reflect at whether we are happy with the direction we are taking or not.

      3. Thank you for mentioning it!

        Yes, fully agree. bone is a dynamic tissue capable of re-modelling and responding to stress whereas plastic is not! This is certainly something I probably should have mentioned in regards to the 3D blog entry (will add a bit at the end to reflect this). Hmm, that is intriguing. The articles I’ve mentioned highlight the ability for healthy bone to grow back into the plastic implants, which is something that metal isn’t great for, but I do wonder about the potential ability of plastic infecting/poisoning the body or surrounding tissues after time. In regards to the body, a very interesting area of study! Yes, where do you draw the line and what does this mean for the patient?

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