“He 6 was weeks old when we were at a restaurant dinner one night when he stopped breathing and turned blue. He spent ten days in a hospital and came home; two days later, he ended up turning blue again, stopped breathing on us. Quite a few of the doctors said that he had a good chances of not leaving the hospital alive.” explains Kaiba Gionfriddo’s mother.
Kaiba suffers of a tracheobronchomalacia, a pretty rare condition in which the airways collapse when breathing out or coughing. Concerned about Kaiba’s life-threatening situation, University of Michigan Doctors came up with one possible solution: to fabricate a custom-designed airway splint directly from a CT scan by using a laser-based 3D printer. Made of polycaprolactone, a biodegradable polyester that is slowly absorbed by the body over a few years, the device would provide resistance against collapse while simultaneously allowing flexion, extension, and expansion with growth.
Twenty-one days after placement of the airway splint, ventilator support was discontinued entirely and Kaiba was discharged home. One year after surgery, no unforeseen problems related to the splint have arisen, and full resorption of the splint is estimated to occur in three years.