A Dutch patient has become the first in the world to be given a total skull replacement.
The patient, who has not been named, suffered from a condition which caused her skull to become progressively thicker.
This caused her to suffer from headaches and put increased pressure on the brain.
Part of a woman’s skull has been replaced with a plastic cranium – made using a 3D printer.
Bone covering the brain is usually around 1.5cm thick but the 22-year-old’s was 5cm and caused pressure and sight loss.
In this patient’s case, it was also causing her eyesight to deteriorate and she was losing the ability to form facial expressions. As her skull continued to thicken, the pressure on her brain continued to build and, without the surgery, she would have eventually lost crucial brain functions and died.
The surgery saw neurosurgeons replace the whole of the back of her skull – from her hairline to the top of her neck and from one ear to the other.
They replaced the bone with the plastic implant which was attached to the remaining bone. The surgery went well and, three months on, the patient is completely symptom-free. She has also fully regained her sight and has returned to work. She is not expected to need further treatment.
Neurologist Dr Ben Verweij explained, “The patient has her sight back entirely, is symptom-free and back to work. It is almost impossible to see that she’s ever had surgery.”
Doctors have previously used 3D printed implants to replace parts of the skull but they have never before replaced the full back part of a skull. The surgeons say the technique could also be used to treat patients with severe skull injuries or tumors.