The world’s first 3D printed tantalum metal artificial vertebral body clinical application research completed in Xi’an

Recently, with the support of the major scientific and technological intelligent manufacturing project in Shaanxi Province, the Department of Orthopedics, Xijing Hospital, Air Force Military Medical University, used the world’s first 3D printed tantalum metal long-segment artificial vertebral body to reconstruct the defect after en bloc resection of malignant spinal tumors.

37-year-old patient Li Hua (pseudonym) came to the orthopedics department of Xijing Hospital because of progressive back pain which seriously affected the quality of life. After consultation with a multidisciplinary team of experts, the patient was diagnosed with a pathological fracture of thoracic 9-11 vertebral body malignant tumor and spinal cord compression, and decided to implement a three-segment vertebral tumor posterior en bloc resection. Unlike single-segment vertebral body resection, multi-segment en-bloc resection is more difficult and riskier, and reconstruction of long-segment spinal defects is more prone to complications. In order to accurately reconstruct the defect of Li Hua’s spinal malignant tumor after resection, the team of Associate Professor Li Jing from the Department of Orthopedics of Xijing Hospital and a joint scientific research team composed of relevant scientific research institutes and equipment R&D companies designed individualized long-segment vertebrae based on CT data, and Complete the 3D Printing of the tantalum metal cone. On the day of the operation, Li Jing performed a three-segment spine tumor posterior mass resection, and at the same time used 3D printed tantalum metal vertebral bodies for support and reconstruction. Due to the good matching of the individual design of the prosthesis, the reconstruction process is very smooth, and the entire operation takes 4 hours. After the operation, Li Hua’s spinal cord compression was completely relieved, his nerve function returned to normal, and he walked freely one week after the operation.

It is understood that tantalum metal is currently recognized by the medical community as the most biocompatible human hard tissue implant material. However, due to the high melting point of tantalum metal and the high price of tantalum powder, 3D printing additive manufacturing of tantalum metal has difficulties in both technical and economic aspects. The team of Associate Professor Li Jing from the Department of Orthopedics of Xijing Hospital, together with relevant scientific research institutes and equipment R&D companies, carried out digital modeling and biomechanical design research based on clinical application requirements, and on this basis, adopted the world’s only high-power plasma rotary atomization Powder milling equipment to prepare high-quality spherical tantalum powder at an affordable price. At the same time, the joint scientific research team further solved the problem of precise melting of high-melting tantalum metal on the domestically-developed high-precision electron beam 3D printing equipment independently developed, and quickly and efficiently printed individualized tantalum metal prostheses to add materials to bone defects. Abnormality, bone ingrowth and mechanical problems in manufacturing provide solutions. Luo Zhuojing, director of the Orthopedics Department of Xijing Hospital, said that the cross-fusion of the orthopedics team of Xijing Hospital and the cross-border academic team has completed the clinical application of the world’s first tantalum metal 3D printed long-segment artificial vertebral body.  

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