A little girl in China got a 3D titanium implant. Life has been hard and already full of a lot of difficulties for the three year old toddler from Changsha, in the Chinese province of Hunan. The small kid was born with a defect that caused the grey matter of her brain to swell and push her growing skull outwards, enlarging it by up to three times its normal size.
The little girl named Hanhan just underwent surgery to treat the illness known as congenital hydrocephalus. This condition implies fluid build-up inside the skull and around the brain.
Gregory Lakin, plastic surgery doctor from the Pediatric Section of the Hospitals Rainbow Babies University as well as of the Cleveland Children’s hospital reported on this strange case for ABC News. According to him, this curious and often fatal problem appears when the cerebrospinal fluid has nowhere to go after it reaches the skull. Usually, this liquid has a draining system which assures it doesn’t build up like it has done for Hanhan.
The liquid accumulates in the small area between the brain and the skull, eventually pushing out the bone. Dr. Lakin said that in most cases, and possibly in all U.S. instances of the condition, doctors would have removed a small piece of the skull, drain out the liquid, and then place the little fragment back. This, Lakin says, is to make sure that the body does not reject the implant and does not see it as foreign.
But hey, our bodies are no xenophobes, they just don’t like intrusive things, especially when it comes to the brain. Easily understandable.
There are, however, cases when titanium implants are preferable. This may have also been the case for Hanhan, as the doctors at the People’s Hospital from Changsha used three 3D modeled titanium pieces to repair her skull after they had drained it of fluids.
Larkin says that they may have chosen this options due to time considerations, as melding titanium and bone is much easier and faster than bone and bone, or due to the frail nature of Hanhan’s skull. The latter may have been the case, since her bone had been abnormally strained and therefore was probably thinner than that of a normal skull.
Hanhan is fortunate that the difficulties she has had to overpass have not left her permanently brain damaged or bed ridden, as the condition is really bad for the brain.