Doctors at the University of Michigan have saved the life of a
20-month-old baby with a collapsed trachea by printing a custom designed
splint based on a CT scan of his trachea. See video below.
Dr Glenn Green, associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology
at the University of Michigan and Dr Scott Hollister, professor of
biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and associate
professor of surgery obtained emergency clearance from the US FDA to
create and implant a tracheal splint made from the biopolymer
The splint was sewn around the baby's airway to expand the
bronchus and give it a skeleton to aid proper growth. Over about
three years, the splint will be reabsorbed by the body. The case is
featured today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Green and Hollister were able to make the custom-designed,
custom-fabricated device using high-resolution imaging and
computer-aided design. The device was created directly from a CT
scan of Kaiba's trachea/bronchus, integrating an image-based
computer model with laser-based 3D printing 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,” says
Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., U-M executive vice president for medical
affairs and CEO of the U-M Health System.
“Groundbreaking discoveries that save lives of individuals across
the nation and world are happening right here in Ann Arbor. I
continue to be inspired and proud of the extraordinary people and
the amazing work happening across the Health System.”
Baby Kaiba Gionfriddo was off ventilator support 21 days after
the procedure, and has not had breathing trouble since then.
“The material we used is a nice choice for this. It takes about
two to three years for the trachea to remodel and grow into a
healthy state, and that’s about how long this material will take to
dissolve into the body,” says Hollister. “Kaiba’s case is definitely
the highlight of my career so far. To actually build something that
a surgeon can use to save a person’s life? It’s a tremendous
The image-based design and 3D biomaterial printing process can be
adapted to build and reconstruct a number of tissue structures.
Green and Hollister have already utilized the process to build and
test patient specific ear and nose structures in pre-clinical
models. In addition, the method has been used by Hollister with
collaborators to rebuild bone structures (spine, craniofacial and
long bone) in pre-clinical models.
Severe tracheobronchomalacia is rare. About 1 in 2,200 babies are
born with tracheomalacia and most children grow out of it by age 2
or 3, although it often is misdiagnosed as asthma that doesn’t
respond to treatment.
Severe cases, like Kaiba’s, are about 10 percent of that number.
And they are frightening, says Green. A normal cold can cause a baby
to stop breathing. In Kaiba’s case, the family was out at a
restaurant when he was six weeks old and he turned blue. Before the
device was placed, Kaiba continued to stop breathing on a regular
basis and required resuscitation daily.
“Severe tracheobronchomalacia has been a condition that has
bothered me for years,” said Green. “I’ve seen children die from it.
To see this device work, it’s a major accomplishment and offers hope
for these children.”
“Even with the best treatments available, he continued to have
these episodes. He was imminently going to die. The physician
treating him in Ohio knew there was no other option, other than our
device in development here,” Green added.
The research has been published in the New England Journal of
Medicine: DOI: 10.1056/1 NEJMc1206319