Daily Mail Australia reported that surgeons in China have successfully implanted an artificial 3D-printed vertebra into a 12-year-old bone cancer patient to help him walk again.
Doctors at Peking University Hospital in Beijing first removed a tumor located in the second vertebra of the boy's neck before replacing it with the 3D-printed implant between the first and third vertebrae to allow him to lift his head.
The five-hour surgery was a world first and will enable the boy named Minghao to walk again after spending two months confined to a hospital bed.
''This is the first use of a 3D-printed vertebra as an implant for orthopedic spine surgery in the world," Dr Liu Zhongjun, who performed the surgery, told Chinese media CCTV.
Before the surgery, Minghao had been lying flat in the orthopedics ward - he could only occasionally stand up but just for a few minutes at a time.
Minghao had injured his back playing football and doctors later diagnosed him with bone cancer after locating the tumor.
''Using existing technology, the patient's head needs to be framed with pins after surgery. The patient's head cannot touch the bed when he is resting. This lasts for at least three months,' Dr Liu said.
''But with 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods."
Minghao is now in recovery and Dr. Liu said he was in good condition and expects him to make a strong recovery.