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J Neurosurg. 2016 May;124(5):1531-7. doi: 10.3171/2015.5.JNS15119. Epub 2015 Nov 13.

The feasibility of producing patient-specific acrylic cranioplasty implants with a low-cost 3D printer.

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Department of Neurosurgery, National Neuroscience Institute, Singapore.


OBJECT Commercially available, preformed patient-specific cranioplasty implants are anatomically accurate but costly. Acrylic bone cement is a commonly used alternative. However, the manual shaping of the bone cement is difficult and may not lead to a satisfactory implant in some cases. The object of this study was to determine the feasibility of fabricating molds using a commercial low-cost 3D printer for the purpose of producing patient-specific acrylic cranioplasty implants. METHODS Using data from a high-resolution brain CT scan of a patient with a calvarial defect posthemicraniectomy, a skull phantom and a mold were generated with computer software and fabricated with the 3D printer using the fused deposition modeling method. The mold was used as a template to shape the acrylic implant, which was formed via a polymerization reaction. The resulting implant was fitted to the skull phantom and the cranial index of symmetry was determined. RESULTS The skull phantom and mold were successfully fabricated with the 3D printer. The application of acrylic bone cement to the mold was simple and straightforward. The resulting implant did not require further adjustment or drilling prior to being fitted to the skull phantom. The cranial index of symmetry was 96.2% (the cranial index of symmetry is 100% for a perfectly symmetrical skull). CONCLUSIONS This study showed that it is feasible to produce patient-specific acrylic cranioplasty implants with a low-cost 3D printer. Further studies are required to determine applicability in the clinical setting. This promising technique has the potential to bring personalized medicine to more patients around the world.


3D printing; PEEK = polyetheretherketone; acrylic bone cement; additive manufacturing; cranioplasty; mold

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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