How A 3D Printed Splint Helped Save A Baby

April and Bryan Gionfriddo’s 20-month-old son Kaiba stopped breathing every day due to a collapsed bronchus blocking the flow of air to his lungs.  A specially designed splint was placed in Kaiba on February 9, 2012 at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.  The split was sewn around his airway to help expand the bronchus and it was given a skeleton to aid proper growth.  The splint will be reabsorbed by the body in the next three years.  This case was featured recently by the New England Journal of Medicine.  The 3D biomaterial printing process can be used to build a number of tissue structures.

“Quite a few doctors said he had a good chance of not leaving the hospital alive,” said April Gionfriddo. “At that point, we were desperate. Anything that would work, we would take it and run with it.”

April said that she was hopeful about a new bioresorbable device built at the University of Michigan that was in development.  Kaiba’s doctors contacted Glenn Green, M.D., whom is an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Michigan.  Dr. Green and his colleague Scott Hollister, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and associate professor of surgery at University of Michigan, received emergency clearance from the FDA to create a tracheal splint for Kaiba that is made from a biopolymer called polycaprolactone.

“It was amazing. As soon as the splint was put in, the lungs started going up and down for the first time and we knew he was going to be OK,” stated Dr. Green.  Green and Hollister made the custom-designed device using high-resolution imaging and computer-aided design.  This device was created using a CT scan of Kaiba’s trachea/bronchus.  3D printing was used to produce the splint.

“Our vision at the University of Michigan Health System is to create the future of health care through discovery. This collaboration between faculty in our Medical School and College of Engineering is an incredible demonstration of how we achieve that vision, translating research into treatments for our patients,” stated Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., the University of Michigan executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of the U-M Health System.

Kaiba was taken off ventilator support for 21 days after the procedure took place.  He has not had trouble breathing since that time.  Green and Hollister previously used the process to build and test patient specific ear and nose structures during pre-clinical models.

Around 1 in 2,200 babies are born with tracheobronchomalacia.  Many children grow out of this between ages 2 and 3.  The condition is often misdiagnosed with asthma.

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