Technology saved the life of a Chinese toddler, after doctors used 3D printed titanium implants to reshape her skull after a rare birth defect left her head triple its normal size.
This put her at risk of going blind and even of having maggots infest her brain.
Due to the heavy weight, parts of her brain suffered serious infections and she lost her sight because her optic nerve was affected.
The girl was suffering from a medical condition called hydrocephalus, which causes a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.
Han Han underwent the 17 hour surgery on Wednesday at the Second People’s Hospital of central China’s Hunan Province and is under observation, said neurosurgeon Kuang Weiping, who is in charge of her treatment. This creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain.The most notable symptom of hydrocephalus in infancy is a rapid increase in head circumference of an unusually large head size. The toddler also developed medical problems, such as a thinning skull and poor blood supply. If something wasn’t done, she probably wouldn’t have lived much longer.
She had reached the point where she found it difficult to lift her head at all, as it now weighed more than half of her entire body weight. Unfortunately, the originally predicted costs (400,000 to 500,000 Chinese yuan) were prohibitive for the family. The father of the girl was able to collect approximately $16,000 in donations from family and friends. During the procedure, her scalp was peeled away from her skull and then attached to protective saline pads.
“CT results showed that Han Han’s brain was filled 80 percent with water,” said Dr. Bo of the Second People’s Hospital of Hunan Province, 3Dprint.com reported. He also mentioned that implants can be used by kids of 3 years old, by this age, the brain already stopped growing so this would not likely affect anything.
Eventually, it was the kindness and generosity of strangers that paid for the toddler’s treatment through online donations. Then surgeons took the three 3D printed titanium implants and inserted them into Han Han’s head to recreate a new skull for her.
During the operation, Han Han’s scalp and skull were removed.
As she continues to grow, the titanium implants will become surrounded by her own bone, strengthening the top of her skull.
To her family’s relief, the operation was a success.