3D printer helps save young boy with collapsed windpipe - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

3D printer helps save young boy with collapsed windpipe

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The Peterson family. The Peterson family.
Garret's mother, Natalie Peterson, at the hospital with her son. Garret's mother, Natalie Peterson, at the hospital with her son.
A mold of Garrett's windpipe. A mold of Garrett's windpipe.
After a successful surgery, Garrett's father says he loves seeing his son's personality come out. After a successful surgery, Garrett's father says he loves seeing his son's personality come out.
(WJBK) -

A family from Utah feared their baby boy is going to die when a severe, rare birth defect made it impossible for him to breathe. Then, they discovered a pioneering, one-time procedure done at the University of Michigan.

A family from Utah feared their baby boy is going to die when a severe, rare birth defect made it impossible for him to breathe. Then, they discovered a procedure at the University of Michigan. So, they packed their bags and came to Michigan in hopes of saving baby Garrett.
 
Garrett, was born with a heart defect that caused a  life-threatening problem: his tiny windpipe was collapsed.

Not able to breathe, Garrett would often turn blue and need resuscitation. He's spent every minute in a hospital on a ventilator.
 
"He was going to be life on a ventilator. He was needing such high ventilator settings that we were concerned if got a cold, anything little like that, he probably would not make it," says Garret's mother, Natalie Peterson.

But on January 31, after traveling from suburban Salt Lake City, Utah to the University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital, Garrett had a pioneering procedure using devices made in a 3D printer!

"It's tremendously exciting. This is the most exciting thing I've seen since medical school," says Dr. Glenn Green. An ear, nose and throat surgeon, he spent years developing this idea.

They created a mold of Garrett's windpipe using a CT scan and a 3D printer, then used that same 3D printer to create precise splints that will wrap around the windpipe.
 
"Just like tent poles on the outside of the tent can be, holding the airway open," Green explains.  

Biomedical engineer Scott Hollister helped turned the concept into reality.

The 3D printer uses a powder that will eventually be reabsorbed by the body. The goal is to make parts like ears and noses that will help stimulate cell and tissue growth.

"An arm sweeps a layer of powder across into the build area. Then there's a laser beam that's essentially driven by the design in the machine, and that laser beam melts the particles together to form the 3D structure," Hollister explains.

Garret's surgery was a success, and doctors believe his windpipe will strengthen with support from the splints.

This young family can't wait to watch their baby boy grow, and breathe on his own.

"It's fun to kind of see his personality come out, and just see him improve and just feel so good. He's just been so happy," says Garrett's dad, Jake Peterson.  

"We're going to be able to take him home now, and he's going to be able to have a normal life when, before, he would not have lasted very much longer," says Natalie.

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