Woman's infected jaw removed, 3D printed replacement implanted

An 83-year-old woman with a badly infected lower jaw had the entire thing replaced with a 3D printed titanium/bioceramic replica. The surgery was performed by doctors from the University of Hasselt (Belgium) in collaboration with Dutch surgeons.

The 3D printer prints titanium powder layer by layer, while a computer controlled laser ensures that the correct particles are fused together. Using 3D printing technology, less materials are needed and the production time is much shorter than traditional manufacturing. The mandible was finally given a bioceramic coating compatible with the patient's tissue by BioCeramics in Leiden. The artificial jaw weighs 107 grams, it is only 30 grams heavier than a natural jaw, but the patient can easily get used to it.

The operation was performed in June last year in the hospital in Sittard-Geleen. One day later the lady could start talking and swallowing.

83 year-old woman got 3D printed mandible (Thanks, Don!)


    1. Not a good plan. Your jaw is designed to break after a certain point to stop the force of the punch from being transmitted up the jawbone to your skull.

      You know, that place where your brain lives? Yeah, that.

      Better a broken jaw (or nose) than a broken skull or battered brain. Not that boxers escape the battered brain, but the point still stands that taking it on the chin and not having something crack is like taking it on the head.

      1. How about a flexible one made out of  carbon fiber/rubber and then covered with that bioceramic coating?
        I could see Jay Leno making it as a boxer, nothing would bring him down if that chin was a shock absorber!

        1.  This can’t really be happening in the Netherlands. Sarah Palin told me that they have Death Panels there that exist just so evil socialists can deny treatment to old people.

          But seriously, she might be quite spry. Retired Justice Stephens was on Colbert a couple of days ago and he was pretty clever at age 91.

          1. The last time I was there, I was sure that Belgium was a separate country from the Netherlands, but I could be wrong.

            Seriously, Europeans have a far greater chance of having advanced surgery techniques performed, because over there one is not required to spend their life savings or die. I have required medical attention in both England and France, and it was far cheaper than that in the good old USA. Also, I was able to get an appointment on the same day that I called the doctor. Do not believe the propaganda spread by the AMA and politicians. There are 35 countries where you can receive better and cheaper health care than here, according to the World Health Organization.

      2.  “Designed to break…”?
        Um, can you explain the evolutionary process here?  Y’know, passing on the genes for weak chins vs strong chins?   Would populations who have softer food and thus softer jaw bones survive being punched in the jaw better?  Would this feature help them get laid?

        How about: the bones evolved to be strong enough to do their job and no more.  Part of that process is the constant tearing down and rebuilding of the bones.  This rebuilding takes care of (small) fractures and provides reinforcement of the bones as required for heavier loads.

        1. How about who cares.

           You totally ignored his premise that the fact that your jaw shatters protects the brain and that a metal jaw would not be advantageous in boxing. 

          Oh right the evolutionary feature, those who get their face smashed in with a less strong jaw don’t get their brains turned into pudding.

        2. As your other replier alluded to, it’s really quite simple in evolutionary terms. If your jaw breaks instead of all of the force of impact being transferred into the brain (or fracturing the skull or whatever), you’re more likely to survive and thus more likely to pass on your genes.

          If you take it down to the small scale for a probably unrealistic example, imagine two proto-humans fighting over a sexy lady proto-human. They bash each other’s heads against rocks. The one whose jaw shatters survives, the one with a rock-hard jaw dies due to increased trauma to the brain.

          I mean, your way works too, but in conjunction with this. Even the smallest advantages play out in evolutionary timescales.

          1. Is a being with a broken jaw likely to have the fitness to reproduce? Especially when they can’t chew food?

            I agree with the person one layer greater that says the bone evolved to strength needed for efficient consumption of nearby food resources.

        3.  PaulR here seems to have the better understanding of both bone physiology and evolutionary biology.

          He is entirely right about osteoclasts and osteoblasts constantly reconditioning and even altering bones. Physiology FTW.

          “strong enough to do their job” Evolution FTW. PaulR wins.

          BTW, a jaw breaking blow that could have damaged the brain or spine seems likely to be a usually fatal blow without fairly advanced medical care, so no real selective advantage to having a “crumple zone”

          Furthermore, it is quite possible for blows that are no threat to the brain to break the jaw. I got my jaw broken as a kid in just such a way.

          PaulR wins.

  1. 70 years ago my grandfather’s jaw was replaced with a sheep’s jaw because that was the best option available. This blows my mind.

      1. The story as my father told it is that it was during the Depression and gramps couldn’t afford a dentist, which led to a horrific infection. Apparently the sheep jaw was experimental at the time; so being a guinea pig was the only way he could afford surgery. I never met the man, so I can’t testify to how natural it looked; but he looked fine in pictures and was exempted from service in WWII because of it.

        1. Barring access to l33t technology, it’s probably actually a pretty good idea… Assuming you boiled it a bit, so that the sheep cells and your immune system didn’t have a fight to the death in your face, bone is a nice, porous, biocompatible bone scaffold, and sheep aren’t terribly different in size.

          1.  Seems like you’d need to cook the bone and try to get out as many of the proteins as you could with solvents to reduce the chance of immune rejection. Would the living bone next to the dead bone merge with the mineral substrate and restore it to life as normal human bone?

            “Sheep aren’t terribly different in size.” I think most of the Texas A&M Aggies already know that. (Obligatory Aggie Joke)

  2. The next instalment of James Bond should incorporate this technology implanted into a revamped character of “Jaws”.

  3. I am kinda confused, did she have a new jaw or dentures? What they showed was a full set of dentures (what I wear).. I want permanent TEETH damn it.. /nod **Misses Apples**

  4. Saying it was 3D printed is a bit misleading. I believe the process is actually referred to as laser sintering.  It’s used to make parts of airplanes and space shuttles because it’s more versatile than machining and stronger than welding parts together.

    1.  Not that misleading. Laser sintering is basically 3D printing for metal. There’s a lot of technical differences in practice, but none principle.

    2. technically, it’s still well within the ‘3D printing’ rubric in that the laser sintering tech is a variant of the ole “melted thermoplastics” deal the MakerBot works with or the much older “Selective spray of glue in powdered starch” tech.

  5. key word being “Belgium.”  unless your last name is in Who’s Who, your insurance does NOT cover this.

      1.  I didn’t word that very well, but what you said is what I meant.  “your” meaning “other americans like me,” not “Belgians.”  the way i wrote it is ambiguous as to who “you” are, but the prior sentence does imply “Belgians,” doesn’t it?  I have a dumb head sometimes.

  6. An infected jaw would be sheer misery.  Try to have this done in the US and you can count on millions of dollars in medical bills.

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