3D Printing at the Service of Health

HEALTH A 3D printing platform for medical devices for research has just been created in Villeurbanne, near Lyon. Several projects are already well advanced …

In the laboratories of the innovative 3d platform. FAB, based on the LyonTech-La Doua campus in Villeurbanne, 3D printers are running at full speed. Since its creation in 2016 at the University Lyon I, this unit manufactures prostheses, skin, cartilage or bones in 3D. Major technological innovations that could benefit more patients in the future.

In any case, in this context, the Hospices Civils de Lyon have come closer to scientists from Lyon I to create a common platform for 3D printing of medical devices for research. “The goal is to transform, through clinical studies, technological innovations from 3D printing into clinical innovations, which will benefit the greatest number of patients,” says Julien Koehler, engineer in the Innovation HCL.

3D titanium prosthesis for orbital reconstruction

Among the projects in progress, the printing of 3D prostheses for the orbital reconstruction has already benefited about fifteen patients of the Hospices civils de Lyon. The technology has been granted marketing authorization. But several steps are still needed for these medical devices can one day be reimbursed by health insurance.

For this purpose, Jean Thomas Bachelet, maxillofacial surgeon, is leading a research program in medico-economics in connection with the new platform. “The idea is to demonstrate that with this 3D prosthesis, whose overall cost is 2,500 euros, we will ultimately save money by investing more initially than with a conventional transplant,” explains the surgeon.

Less risk for the patient
Today, to reconstruct bone orbits, after a serious fracture, the patient sees himself grafting a bone of the skull. The 3D titanium prosthesis allows, according to the surgeon, a better quality reconstruction and offers faster recovery to patients. “This prosthesis makes it possible to reduce the operative time, the operated zones, the scars. There is less risk for the patient and better aesthetic results, “adds Dr. Bachelet.

Compared to bone grafting, the prosthesis adapts better to the orbital floor and requires a very short hospital stay and shorter rehabilitation sessions. “Patients get back to work more quickly,” says the surgeon, who will direct a national study of 120 patients in 2019. Work lasting three to four years, funded by the Ministry of Health up to 800,000 euros, and intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 3D prosthesis. And the interest to benefit a greater number.

Other work is in progress at a less advanced stage. A clinical study should begin in 2020 on babies with malformations or cancers. 3D printing has enabled, within the Lyon platform, the reconstruction of an infant thorax, consisting of lungs, ribs, trachea and blood vessels. Surgeons can thus train on this device before the intervention to better anticipate difficulties. Once trained, doctors can hope to reduce the baby’s operating time and thus limit the pain and potential sequelae.


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