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3-D printed respiratory splints save toddler

18-month-old Garrett Peterson of Utah has lived in hospitals since he was born, hooked up to ventilators because his respiratory system could not tolerate the high pressure of inhalation. His airways collapsed even on the most sensitive systems, and he was in danger of death, as even the ventilators could not maintain his breathing for very long.

Now, after over a year of uncertainty, Garrett’s parents finally received the news that their son is able to go home, where he will gradually be taken off the respirators and allowed to breathe on his own.

Splints implemented by surgeons at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital of the University of Michigan have been placed in his respiratory passages, saving Garrett’s life.

Tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve, is the name of Garrett’s rare disorder. In this particular case, the condition developed into severe tracheobronchomalacia, in which his trachea and bronchioles had softened, allowing the airways to collapsed into small slits, sensitive to pressure and particles in the air.

Severe tracheobronchomalacia is an extremely rare disorder, affecting only about 1 in 2,200 newborns a year. Most patients will grow out of it by the time of their second or third birthday, but the condition is sometimes misdiagnosed as asthma. Cases like Garrett’s make up ten percent of that number.

The implants that saved Garrett’s life were made with cutting edge CT scanning and 3-D printing technology working together to develop bio-absorbable splints in such a shape that would safely fit in the infant’s airways.

Not only will they be able to support his respiratory system throughout infancy, but the devices themselves will biodegrade safely in the child’s body, as his trachea and bronchi strengthen so he can breathe on his own without ventilation.

Garrett’s case marks only the second time that this new technology has been used to save a child’s life – both times at the University of Michigan hospital. The first use happened early last year, when a 3D-printed splint of a windpipe saved toddler Kaiba Gionfriddo from Ohio, whose life was threatened with the same disorder.

The devices were first created for use at the University of Michigan in a collaborative effort from Glenn Green, associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology, and Scott Hollister, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering who is also an associate professor of surgery.

Photo credit: YouTube/UMHealthSystem

James Sullivan

James Sullivan

Staff Writer
James Sullivan is a contributing writer at Science Recorder, OMNI Reboot, and Brain World magazine.
About James Sullivan (781 Articles)
James Sullivan is a contributing writer at Science Recorder, OMNI Reboot, and Brain World magazine.