Splint made by 3D printer used to save baby’s life

‘Vacuum cleaner’ for windpipe created by experts in Michigan hailed as a medical breakthrough

A baby’s life has been saved by using a device to help him breathe created by a 3D printer. The operation, carried out in the US, follows the development of a controversial 3D-printed gun openly available online.

It is hoped that further objects with a more positive purpose, treating other medical conditions, could also be developed through the 3D printing process – structures that are being developed for use in ear, nose and throat surgery.

The groundbreaking intervention was made after the parents of Kaiba Gionfriddo begged doctors to help their six-week-old son, who collapsed and turned blue when the family was at a restaurant. In the following months he stopped breathing regularly and had to be resuscitated on a daily basis.

Kaiba had been born with the main arteries to his heart and lungs misplaced; they were squeezing his windpipe, causing a rare condition called tracheobronchomalacia. Most affected children grow out of it by the age of three, but in severe cases it can cause death.

Doctors working with Professor Scott Hollister, a biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan, used a 3D printer to make a device like a vacuum cleaner hose which was implanted into Kaiba’s chest to act as splint to hold his airway open.

Three weeks after the operation in February 2012 – which has only now been reported, in The New England Journal of Medicine – he was taken off the ventilator and has not had trouble breathing since.

His mother, April, said: “Quite a few doctors warned there was a good chance he would not leave the hospital alive.” Professor Hollister said: “Kaiba’s case is the highlight of my career. To build something that a surgeon can use to save someone’s life – it’s a tremendous feeling.”

Kaiba had been in normal health until the age of six weeks when he began to struggle to breathe. When he was two months, his chest heaved dramatically as he gasped for breath and doctors had to perform a tracheotomy.

Kaiba’s doctors contacted the experts in biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan who were developing a new device for use in patients which would dissolve and be absorbed by the body in a couple of years. They obtained emergency clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration to create and implant a tracheal splint.

Glenn Green, associate professor of paediatric otolaryngology at Michigan, said: “Severe tracheobronchomalacia has been a condition that has bothered me for years. I have seen children die from it. Even with the best treatments, Kaiba was imminently going to die. To see this device work is a major accomplishment and offers hope for these children.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
books...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Romelu Lukaku scored twice to add to the hat-trick he registered in the first leg in Switzerland
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Talent Manager

    £30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

    Recruitment Genius: Print / Warehouse Operative

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Supply Chain Assistant

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Anna Woodward: German Speaking Accountant

    £45,000: Anna Woodward: My client is aleading global manufacturer and service ...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower