In yet another triumph of using advanced CAD and 3D printing, doctors in China have saved the life of a little girl by giving her a replacement skull, created via 3D printer. The three-year-old girl, who her doctors refer to as “Han Han,” suffered from a rare condition known as congenital hydrocephalus, which caused her brain cavity to become filled with fluid and her head to swell to four times normal size. In a procedure that the doctors termed, “whole brain shrinking plastic surgery,” Han Han’s head was drained of fluid, and three titanium mesh skull implants were created to replace the entire top section of her skull.
The condition that Han Han was suffering from, congenital hydrocephalus, is present at birth and can be caused by genetic abnormalities or traumatic events to the fetus during development. When someone suffers from the disease, their brain and spinal cord become surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which leads to abnormal swelling of the ventricles, a condition that puts the brain in danger of serious damage from the abnormal pressure. In Han Han’s case, this lead to her head weighing more than the rest of her body, and prevented her from being able to lift her head from her pillow without great difficulty.
According to one of the doctors who treated her, Han Han would not have survived to the end of the year if she had not received the revolutionary treatment she received at the Second People’s Hospital of Hunan Province.
As Han Han grows, the titanium mesh plates that now make up the top of her skull will become surrounded by bone, strengthening her head and leading to what her doctors expect will be a full recovery.
Medical Miracles through CAD
Over the last few years, the medical use of 3D printing and using CAD to create replacement parts for the human body has become surprisingly advanced. The first uses of the technology were used to create hearing aids and replacement bones, and many doctors predict that it will soon be used to create replacement skin and even human organs.
Han Han’s case is not the only recent case of 3D printing being used in radical ways to change the life of a child, either. In 2014, five-month-old Gabriel Mandeville was given a stunning new treatment in which part of his brain was removed and replaced with a 3D-printed replica. The young Mandeville was suffering from epileptic seizures, which were interfering with his cognitive development and putting his life in danger. Doctors were forced to perform a hemispherectomy, or the removal of an entire hemisphere of the brain, in order to stop the seizures. In order to protect the child’s mental development, they installed a replica of the portion of his brain that was removed, created via 3D printer.[i]
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