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Doctors save baby with 3D-printed breathing device

Before he had the device, Kaiba had to be resuscitated daily. (Source: University of Michigan/CNN) Before he had the device, Kaiba had to be resuscitated daily. (Source: University of Michigan/CNN)

(RNN) - A baby who was born with a serious medical condition is able to breathe on his own after doctors created a new device with the aid of a 3D printer.

Kaiba Gionfriddo, now 20 months old, was born with a severe case of tracheobronchomalacia. The life-threatening condition can collapse the airways and prohibit one from being able to breathe.

He had to be resuscitated daily to survive.

"Quite a few doctors said he had a good chance of not leaving the hospital alive," said April Gionfriddo, Kaiba's mother. "At that point, we were desperate. Anything that would work, we would take it and run with it."

April and Bryan Gionfriddo, Kaiba's father, were willing to try anything.

According to a news release from the University of Michigan, the Gionfriddos were urged by their doctors to try a new treatment that was in development at the university's medical center.

UM's Glenn Green, M.D., associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology and Scott Hollister, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and associate professor of surgery, obtained an emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to use a 3D printing machine to create a device that would help Kaiba breathe.

Green and Hollister designed a splint that could be sewn around Kaiba's airway to expand his bronchus and give it support to aid proper growth. After designing the splint, the doctors fed it into a laser-based 3D printing machine to build it.

The doctors performed the surgery Feb. 22, 2012, and the experiment worked.

"It was amazing. As soon as the splint was put in, the lungs started going up and down for the first time and we knew he was going to be OK," Green said.

Twenty-one days after the procedure, Kaiba was off ventilator support. He has not had breathing trouble since then, according to UM.

"He's a pretty healthy kid right now," Green said, according to the AP.

About 2,000 babies each year are born with tracheobronchomalacia, but most grow out of it by the age of 2 or 3. Kaiba had a severe case that about 200 babies are born with each year.

The plastic device is designed to degrade and gradually absorb into the body in the course of three years as healthy tissue grows and replaces it.

Green and Hollister have a patent pending on the device they designed, and Hollister has a financial interest in a company that makes similar implants.

It's unknown if the device Green and Hollister made for Kaiba will be a permanent solution, but it is a sign of progress. Other doctors in the field praised the new development.

"It's the wave of the future," said Dr. Robert Weatherly, a pediatric specialist at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, according to the AP. "I'm impressed by what they were able to accomplish."

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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