Baby saved by 3-D printed implant

May 22, 2013 4:59:11 PM PDT
The first months of life were frightening ones for the parents of Caiba Gionfriddo. Just 6 weeks old, he suddenly stopped breathing. And it happened again and again.

But he's a medical pioneer, saved by a splint made by a 3D printer which keeps air going to his lungs.

Three-dimensional printing has gotten a lot of attention lately.

Instead of printing on paper with ink, it uses special liquids to build up layers, until you have a 3-D object.

Now, doctors have used it to make an implantable device that saved a baby's life.

Caiba was born with a condition that allowed a major airway to his lungs to collapse.

He'd stop breathing without warning, and doctors said he could die.

But using a CT scan of his airway, a computer design program, and a 3-D printer, doctors at the University of Michigan made a splint for it.

They implanted the device about a year ago.

Dr. Glenn Green, who helped develop the device, says, "It was amazing. As soon as the splint was put in, the lungs started going up & down for the first time, and we knew he was going to be OK."

The tiny device is made from a biodegradable polyester that is gradually being absorbed as Caiba's body grows, and develops a healthy airway.

At the time of this video, he sometimes needed a ventilator.

But now, he breathes completely on his own.