Two South Africa's cancer patients get 3D printed jaw implants

Two South Africa's cancer patients get 3D printed jaw implants

Two patients at the Kimberley Hospital in South Africa can smile again and have their normal life back after receiving the country's first 3D printed titanium jaw bone implantation.

The operation was led by prosthodontist professor Dr Cules Van den Heever from the University of Pretoria. He was assisted by Dr Kobus Hoek, a maxillofacial surgeon, Dr Walleed Ikram, Head of the Kimberley Hospital Dental Unit, and doctors Philip Johnsson and Riaan Liebenberg, dentists at the Kimberley Hospital's Dental Department.

The lower jaw of 31-year-old patient from Springbok was destroyed by a tumor, and on Wednesday this week doctors had half of his lower jaw replaced by a 3D printed titanium jaw. Another patient, a 20-year-old man from Kuruman who broke his lower jaw steel implantation has also got a new 3D printed titanium replacement.

The titanium prosthesis implants were 3D printed at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein. The 3D printer fuses titanium powder with laser beams and build the lower jaw layer by layer. 3D printing has lowered the cost of the implant from R100,000 ($9,500) to R20.000 ($1,900).

Dr van den Heever said that the patients had got face structure, and they are able to eat and speak. But the ony thing they won't be able to replace at this stage is the teeth.


The operation was the third of its kind to be performed worldwide. The first operation was performed in 2012 by Belgian and Dutch scientists. They have successfully replaced the lower jaw with a 3D printed model for a 83 year-old woman with a bone infection. Earlier this year, a Chinese patient, Ms. Sun, who suffered from a tumor which caused serious damage to her lower jaw, received a 3D printed titanium lower jaw implant. Normally it takes a few days to produce a custom implant, but with 3D printing technology it takes only a few hours.

Van den Heever said more than 500 Northern Cape patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year. The cancer causes their lifelong disfigurement. Customized, 3D printed titanium jaw implant is cheaper and could help those patients quickly restore their ability to eat and speak and get back to their normal life.

Watch the video below Belgian company LayerWise 3D printing the first patient-specific implant design incorporating articulated joints and dedicated features in 2012.


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