Cranioplasty with a low-cost customized polymethylmethacrylate implant using a desktop 3D printer

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OBJECTIVE

Cranioplasty implants should be widely available, low in cost, and customized or easy to mold during surgery. Although autologous bone remains the first choice for repair, it cannot always be used due to infection, fragmentation, bone resorption, or other causes, which led to use of synthetic alternatives. The most frequently used allogenic material for cranial reconstructions with long-term results is polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Three-dimensional printing technology has allowed the production of increasingly popular customized, prefabricated implants. The authors describe their method and experience with a customized PMMA prosthesis using a precise and reliable low-cost implant that can be customized at any institution with open-source or low-cost software and desktop 3D printers.

METHODS

A review of 22 consecutive patients undergoing CT-based, low-cost, customized PMMA cranioplasty over a 1-year period at a university teaching hospital was performed. Preoperative data included patient sex and age; CT modeling parameters, including the surface area of the implant (defect); reason for craniectomy; date(s) of injury and/or resections; the complexity of the defect; and associated comorbidities. Postoperative data included morbiditiy and complications, such as implant exposure, infection, hematoma, seroma, implant failure, and seizures; the cost of the implant; and cosmetic outcome.

RESULTS

Indications for the primary craniectomy were traumatic brain injury (16, 73%), tumor resection (3, 14%), infection (1, 4%), and vascular (2, 9%). The median interval between previous surgery and PMMA cranioplasty was 12 months. The operation time ranged from 90 to 150 minutes (mean 126 minutes). The average cranial defect measured 65.16 cm2 (range 29.31–131.06 cm2). During the recovery period, there was no sign of infection, implant rejection, or wound dehiscence, and none of the implants had to be removed over a follow-up ranging from 1 to 6 months. The aesthetic appearance of all patients was significantly improved, and the implant fit was excellent.

CONCLUSIONS

The use of a customized PMMA was associated with excellent patient, family, and surgeon satisfaction at follow-up at a fraction of the cost associated with commercially available implants. This technique could be an attractive option to all patients undergoing cranioplasty.

ABBREVIATIONS GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale; PMMA = polymethylmethacrylate; TBI = traumatic brain injury.
Article Information

Contributor Notes

Correspondence Jesús A. Morales-Gómez: Hospital Universitario “Dr. José Eleuterio González,” Monterrey, Nuevo León, México. jesus.moralesg@uanl.mx.INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online June 15, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2017.12.JNS172574.Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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