Dr. Bon Verweij implanted the first full 3D-printed skull replacement in a young Dutch woman
Dr Bon Verweij implanted the first full 3D-printed skull replacement in a young Dutch womanEénVandaag

A 22-year-old woman has received the world's first full 3D-printed skull replacement transplant in a 23-hour operation at University Medical Center Utrecht.

The patient suffered from a disorder that caused her cranial bones to thicken to the point where too much pressure was put on her brain.

"The disease manifests itself in the beginning with severe headaches," said Dr Bon Verweij, a neurosurgeon at UMC Utrecht.

"Over time, the increasing pressure on the brain from the thickening skull began to affect her eyesight and coordination. It was only a matter of time before other crucial brain functions became compromised and she would die."

The operation was conducted by Verweij and Dr Marvick Muradin.

The patient is now symptom-free and her eyesight has been fully restored. Verweij said that it was virtually impossible to tell that she had had surgery.

Verweij has previously used 3D printers to print parts of skulls for patients but until now, surgeons have never attempted to replace and implant an entire skull.

Recently, surgeons at Morriston Hospital in the UK used a 3D printer to recronstruct the face of a motorbike crash victim.

"Before, an implant was made from a type of cement that was far from an ideal fit," said Verweij.

"Now, these parts can be precisely created using 3D printing. This not only offers large cosmetic benefits, but patients often have better brain function compared to the old method."

A video in Dutch produced by UMC Utrecht shows the surgeons at work and what the 3D-printed skull looks like: