French surgeon performs world’s first spinal fusion surgery using customised 3D printed spine cages


The Medicrea group has announced that a surgeon in Lyon, France has performed the world’s first spinal fusion surgery using customised spine cages created with a 3D printer.

According to a company release, Medicrea has developed the UNiD service to bring customisation to spinal fusion surgery for the first time. Spinal fusion surgery is performed to correct severe spinal deformities. Damaged discs are replaced with spinal cages to separate the vertebrae and align the spine properly, while a curved spinal rod is screwed into place to maintain that alignment. With the support of specific softwares and advanced imaging, the UNiD ALIF customised cages made of Poly Ether Ketone Ketone (PEKK) exactly reproduce the anatomic details of a patient’s vertebral plates.

The first operation using Medicrea’s “UNiD ALIF” device was performed on May 28, 2014 by Vincent Fiere at the Hospital Jean Mermoz in Lyon, France, a centre specialised in the diagnosis of severe spinal deformities and their surgical treatment. The UNiD ALIF extends Medicrea’s UNiD platform, following the launch of the UNiD pre-curved osteosynthesis rod service in Europe earlier this year.

“The intersomatic cage, specifically ‘printed’ by Medicrea for my patient, positioned itself automatically in the natural space between the vertebrae and moulded ideally with the spine by joining intimately with the end plates, despite their relative asymmetry and irregularity,” says Fiere. “I could also very precisely perform the restoration of the disc height and simultaneously correct the degree of lumbar lordosis using plans I had made several days before the operation with the help of Medicrea’s Surgimap software tool.”

The UNiD ALIF intersomatic anatomical inter-body device was developed by Medicrea from a 3D digital file created from the extraction and treatment of pre-operatory scanner images of the patient, a process developed internally by Medicrea’s research and development teams. The company’s design, recording and production methods open the door to the future development of implantable devices that can identically reproduce the elements of the spine that need to be reinforced or replaced by artificial components printed in 3D on implantable polymers or titanium.

This process and the multiple applications that directly result from it to create bone implants from 3D printing are patent-pending.