A cancer patient can be thankful for the advent of 3D medical printers after his cancer-ridden vertebrae was successfully replaced with a 3D-printed part.
Australian neurosurgeon Ralph Mobbs completed the world-first surgery in a marathon 15 hours in December for his patient Drage Josevski, has reported.
‘Without surgery and without treatment of this type of tumour, the outlook for this patient would be particularly nasty and a particularly horrific way of dying,’ Dr Mobbs told ABC News.
Mr Josevski had been diagnosed with a rare cancer known as chordoma, which attacks the bones of the spine and skull with only one case per million diagnosed each year.
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Mr Josevski’s tumour was located at the top of the two vertebrae next to his skull, leading to a poor prognosis
Australian neurosurgeon Ralph Mobbs in the operating room during a 15-hour marathon surgery
Chordoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull and spine.
It is part of a family of cancers called sarcoma, which include cancers of the bones, cartilage, muscles and other connective tissue.
Chordomas are generally slow growing, but are relentless and tend to recur after treatment.
Because of their proximity to critical structures such as the spinal cord, brainstem, nerves and arteries, they are difficult to treat and require highly specialised care.
1 in 125,000 people live with chordoma. There are no approved drugs.
In Mr Josevski’s case the tumour was located at the top of the two vertebrae, leading to a poor prognosis.
They were not sure whether he would survive the operation, given his poor prognosis and the fact that it was a ‘particularly complicated, long and difficult surgery.’
It would expose the top of his neck – where the neck and head meet – and essentially detach the patient’s head from his neck and remove the tumour before reattaching his head back to his neck.
‘There’s no two ways about it, he would gradually lose function of his arms and legs, gradually lose function of his capacity to breathe, eat, let’s not take it too far further than that, it’s not a pleasant death at all,’ Dr Mobbs said.
His family had struggled after he was diagnosed on a family holiday to Mr Josevski’s native Macedonia.