7-Year-Old Boy Gets 3D-Printed Skull Implant

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The medical advances of 3D-printer technology continue to advance and change lives.  After a 7-year old boy lost a sizable chunk of his skull in a hillside accident, an innovative surgery restored the area using an implant developed from an artificial skull.

After falling down a hillside in California’s Topanga Canyon in 2014, young Teddy Ward was left with a gaping hole in his skull.  Doctors speculate he lost close to half of his skull mass.

Courtesy: Teddy Ward Recovery Update Page
Courtesy: Teddy Ward Recovery Update Page

Doctors tried in vain with several surgeries to repair the damage. Teddy was advised to wear a helmet everywhere he went for over a year, to avoid additional injury to his head region.

“This was a remarkable defect,” his doctor, Dr. Mark Urata, told CBS Los Angeles. “It was close to 50 percent of his skull that was gone.”

But thanks to a groundbreaking surgery done at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Teddy received a 3D printed skull implant made from a material called PolyEtherEtherKetone (PEEK). The material has the similar physical properties as a real skull, and it fits perfectly with Teddy’s existing bone structure. The surgery was completed in October 2016.

3D printing works by laying down successive layers of a material until the object is completed. Each layer can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross section of the finished object.

Doctors say Teddy can return to all of the normal physical activities that a kid his age may do with one exception: no football is allowed.

But that’s not a big loss for Teddy’s mom Lisa Ward. She’s excited that her son can now once again enjoy some of the more laid back but important milestones in life.  After being excluded from his friend’s social events for the past few years because no parent wanted the responsibility of supervising a child with a partially missing skull, Teddy’s social calendar has officially opened up again.

“I put the word out literally a few days ago, that Teddy is available for sleepovers,” his mom said.

Ronke Idowu Reeves
Ronke Idowu Reeves is a writer and journalist who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Her news and entertainment stories have appeared on WABC-TV-New York, Fox News Channel, VH1, BET.com plus in Sundance Film Festival’s Sundance Daily Insider and People Magazine.