Now, thanks to splints that surgeons at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital have implanted in his airway, thus saving his life, Garrett can go home and gradually be weaned off the ventilators.
Garrett's condition is called tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve, and in his case, it had developed into severe tracheobronchomalacia, or softening of his trachea and bronchi, to the point that the airways had collapsed to the size of small slits.
Severe tracheobronchomalacia is very rare and affects about 1 in 2,200 newborns. Most grow out of it by age 2 or 3, but it can be misdiagnosed as asthma that does not respond to treatment. Severe cases, like Garrett's, are about 10% of that number.
From a medical standpoint, the remarkable thing about Garrett's story is that the life-saving implants were made using CT scanning and 3D imaging and printing technology to produce bioresorbable splints of the exact shape to ensure a snug fit in the little boy's airways.
And not only this, but the devices will gradually biodegrade harmlessly in the child's body, as his trachea and bronchi strengthen so he can breathe on his own without ventilation.
In fact, this is only the second time this technology has been used to save a child's life - both times at the same hospital. The first time was in early 2013, when a 3D-printed splint of a windpipe saved the life of another toddler, Kaiba Gionfriddo of Ohio, whose life was also threatened by tracheobronchomalacia, causing his airway to collapse.
The devices were developed at the University of Michigan by Glenn Green, associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology and Scott Hollister, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and associate professor of surgery.
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