Doctors have reportedly helped a Chinese toddler by reshaping her oversized head using a 3D printed titanium implant. The girl in question had congenital hydrocephalus, a birth defect characterized by fluid buildup around the infant’s brain.
The girl, whose name according to reports is Hanhan, had a head three times of its normal size prior to the operation. The surgery was carried out at the People’s Hospital in Hunan Province.
The head of the pediatric plastic surgery department at the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Dr. Gregory Lakin explained that congenital hydrocephalus takes place when the cerebrospinal fluid fails to drain properly from the patient’s skull.
Lakin added that the fluid buildup eventually results in swelling of the baby’s head and informed that the fluid tends to push out on bones and also exposes the infant’s brain to additional strain. Here, it must be noted that Lakin was not a part of the team of doctors that treated Hanhan.
Lakin said that in the United States the majority of the doctors would treat such patients by removing a part of the skull and draining the fluid, after which they would re-implant the piece of skull bone. This treatment procedure might take much more time to finish compared to the process adopted by Hanhan’s doctors, but the patient’s chances of developing an infection or rejecting the implanted material will be extremely low.
Lakin continued by saying that if the patient’s skull bone is not strong enough or if the surgeons want to finish the operation quickly, they can think of using a 3D implant instead of the skull bone. Lakin said that using 3D printed implant for reshaping Hanhan’s skull will most likely not cause any harm to her brain as she is already three years of age and at 3 an infant’s brain should be almost full grown.
Children with hydrocephaly should undergo an operation as quickly as possible to get rid of the fluid buildup in their brain. If not operated at the right time, the little ones can develop permanent brain damage due to the excessive pressure exerted on their brain.
Lakin said that pressure exerted by the accumulated fluid stretches the brain out and makes it thinner. As a result, kids with untreated hydrocephalus often develop problems with their intellect, vision or speech.