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Doctors Save Ohio Boy By 'Printing' An Airway Tube

Fri, 05/24/2013 - 9:45am
Stephanie Smith

When he was six weeks old, Kaiba Gionfriddo lay flat on a restaurant table, his skin turning blue. He had stopped breathing.

His father, Bryan, was furiously pumping his chest, trying to get air into his son's lungs.

Within 30 minutes, Kaiba was admitted to a local hospital. Doctors concluded that he had probably breathed food or liquid into his lungs and eventually released him.

But two days later, it happened again. It was the beginning of an ordeal for the Youngstown, Ohio, family that continued day after agonizing day.

"They had to do CPR on him every day," said April Gionfriddo, Kaiba's mother, who later found out her son had a rare obstruction in his lungs called bronchial malacia. "I didn't think he was going to leave the hospital alive."

With hopes dimming that Kaiba would survive, doctors tried the medical equivalent of a "Hail Mary" pass. Using an experimental technique never before tried on a human, they created a splint made out of biological material that effectively carved a path through Kaiba's blocked airway.

What makes this a medical feat straight out of science fiction: The splint was created on a three-dimensional printer.

"It's magical to me," said Dr. Glenn Green, an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Michigan who implanted the splint in Kaiba. "We're talking about taking dust and using it to build body parts."

Kaiba's procedure was described in a letter published in the most recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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