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J Neurosurg Spine. 2017 Apr;26(4):513-518. doi: 10.3171/2016.9.SPINE16371. Epub 2017 Jan 20.

The utility of 3D printing for surgical planning and patient-specific implant design for complex spinal pathologies: case report.

Author information

NeuroSpine Surgery Research Group (NSURG), Prince of Wales Private Hospital, Sydney.
Prince of Wales Private Hospital, Sydney.
University of New South Wales, Sydney.
Anatomics Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, Australia; and.
Department of Neurosurgery, University of Florida, Gainesville.
Spinal Health International, Inc., Longboat Key, Florida; and.
ProCRO Pty. Ltd., Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


OBJECTIVE There has been a recent renewed interest in the use and potential applications of 3D printing in the assistance of surgical planning and the development of personalized prostheses. There have been few reports on the use of 3D printing for implants designed to be used in complex spinal surgery. METHODS The authors report 2 cases in which 3D printing was used for surgical planning as a preoperative mold, and for a custom-designed titanium prosthesis: one patient with a C-1/C-2 chordoma who underwent tumor resection and vertebral reconstruction, and another patient with a custom-designed titanium anterior fusion cage for an unusual congenital spinal deformity. RESULTS In both presented cases, the custom-designed and custom-built implants were easily slotted into position, which facilitated the surgery and shortened the procedure time, avoiding further complex reconstruction such as harvesting rib or fibular grafts and fashioning these grafts intraoperatively to fit the defect. Radiological follow-up for both cases demonstrated successful fusion at 9 and 12 months, respectively. CONCLUSIONS These cases demonstrate the feasibility of the use of 3D modeling and printing to develop personalized prostheses and can ease the difficulty of complex spinal surgery. Possible future directions of research include the combination of 3D-printed implants and biologics, as well as the development of bioceramic composites and custom implants for load-bearing purposes.


3D printing; C.S.I.R.O. = Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; CAD = computer-aided design; Oc = occiput; cervical; chordoma; design; implant; lumbar fusion; model; simulation; surgery

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