Doctors at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor have combined medical expertise with 3D printing’s flexibility to save a three-month old who suddenly lost the ability to breathe on his own.

The rare birth defect, called tracheobronchomalacia, causes a weakened trachea that may spontaneously collapse and often goes undiagnosed until the child suddenly stops breathing.  In this case, the parents had been told that the baby would probably not leave the hospital.

The parents learned of work taking place at the University of Michigan on a biodegradable polymer called polycaprolactone, but without emergency FDA clearance, it would have likely been a long time before the material could help any patients in need.  But, this life-threatening situation put this biomedical solution on the fast track.

Doctors used high-res CT scans to construct a comprehensive image of of the baby’s airway, around which a custom splint could be modeled.

Read more from the Digital Manufacturing Report

3D-Printed Airway Saves Life