Patient gets a new jaw from 3D printer

An 83-year-old woman received the first fake body part made from a three-dimensional printer when she underwent a jaw transplant in the Netherlands. Technicians expect more artificial body parts to come from 3D printers as the technology improves, BBC News reported today. In a follow-up surgery on the jaw scheduled for later this month, doctors plan to add dentures. 

The patient needed the transplant because she had developed a chronic bone infection. Doctors thought that traditional reconstructive surgery would be too risky for somene her age.

The surgery took four hours. Reconstructive surgery normally takes about five times as long. 

The Economist predicted last year that 3D printers eventually "may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did."  The objects are initially designed on computer screens. Once the designer presses "print," the machine then makes the design come to life, constructing it one layer at a time. The printers can build objects out of plastic or metal dust.

In this patient's case, her entire lower jaw was created out of titanium powder. It took only a few hours to print after it was designed.

"Shortly after waking up from the anaesthetics the patient spoke a few words, and the day after the patient was able to swallow again," said Dr. Jules Poukens told the BBC

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