ItalyMedical AMPersonalized MedicineProsthetics

Mother’s hand saved thanks to 3D printing

In a first-of-its-kind operation, led by Professor Giulio Maccauro, at Gemelli Hospital, in Italy

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As reported by Replicatore, an exceptional operation has been carried out at Gemelli Hospital, in Italy, by a team led by Professor Giulio Maccauro, Director of the UOC of Orthopedics. The right hand of a woman suffering from a rare tumor of the wrist was saved, thanks to the implantation of a prosthesis that was custom-built with a 3D printer by the Italian company, Adler-Ortho, with indications from the orthopedic surgeons of the Gemelli Polyclinic. The young woman, who has recently become a mother, is reportedly fine, and is able to move all the fingers on her hand. This is the first operation of its kind, and represents an excellent indication of the level of personalized surgery we can expect to see in the near future.

The patient is a 39-year-old woman who has already undergone several orthopedic operations to treat a rare tumor that had destroyed her right wrist joint. The woman has regained the use of her right hand and averted the danger of amputation – thanks to the complex surgery. The patient underwent resection and wrist reconstruction with radio-metacarpal stabilization, thanks to the positioning of a custom-made, 3D printed prosthesis.

Mother's hand saved thanks to 3D printing - in a first-of-its-kind operation, led by Professor Giulio Maccauro, at Gemelli Hospital, in Italy
Professor Giulio Maccauro.

The operation was carried out by a highly specialized team, directed by Professor Giulio Maccauro, director of the UOC of Orthopedics of the Agostino Gemelli IRCCS University Hospital Foundation and Full Professor of Orthopedics at the Catholic University, Rome campus. Professor Antonio Ziranu, head of the UOSD of Traumatology of the Fatebenefratelli Isola Tiberina – Gemelli Isola Hospital and orthopedics researcher at the Catholic University; Dr. Elisabetta Pataia, ortho-plastic surgeon; and doctoral student Camillo Fulchignoni (hand surgeon) also contributed to the successful operation. The team members are the pioneers of a procedure that inaugurates a new vein of personalized medicine, and opens up new and interesting perspectives in orthopedic surgery.

The use of a personalized 3D prosthesis allowed us to adapt the intervention to the specific needs of the patient, guaranteeing accurate anatomical reproduction and a high degree of functionality. Wrist reconstruction with radiometacarpal stabilization represents a significant advance in the restoration of motor skills and in the patient’s quality of life,” explained Professor Maccauro.

In order to save her hand, it was necessary to replace her wrist with a prosthesis. However, there are no ready-made prostheses for this part of the body (unlike hip or knee prostheses). “For this reason, we have contacted an Italian company, Adler-Ortho, specialized in the design and production of joint prostheses which, starting from the patient’s CT scan and following our indications, has created a prototype on the computer, 3D printed in plastic; we examined it, asked to make some modifications and at that point, the final prosthesis was ‘printed’ in chronocobalt and titanium,” said Professor Maccauro. “For the operation, it was necessary to carry out a double access from the dorsal part and from the volar (lower) part of the wrist, to free and secure the vessels, nerves, and flexor and extensor tendons of the hand. We then performed a proximal bone resection of the forearm and a distal resection at the base of the metacarpals, which are the bones on which the fingers articulate. Finally, we placed this prosthesis.”

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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