She arrived in Italy over four months ago with a seriously injured arm following an explosion in her war-torn country and after numerous interventions to stop an infection. Now the very young patient, from Ukraine, has a customized prosthesis created thanks to 3D printing and can begin her path of motor rehabilitation. The protagonist of this dramatic war story is a 14-year-old from Kiev and taken in charge, after her wounding, by the Meyer pediatric hospital in Florence.
The patient, explains Meyer, underwent a complex surgery which, thanks to the use of 3D printing, allowed her to implant a customized titanium prosthesis to replace the part of the elbow that was irremediably compromised following the explosion. was a victim in Ukraine. The operation was carried out at the pediatric hospital in Florence by a team of surgeons led by the head of orthopedics, Giovanni Beltrami, one of the first internationally to implant custom-made prostheses on children thanks to 3D printing technology.
The girl had arrived in the Tuscan capital on 1 April after being treated urgently in her country. She had arrived in Italy with her mother and her little brother thanks to a flight managed by the Cross of Pistoia and landed in Bologna on the evening of 31 March. The family had been taken care of by the Meyer reception network which found them a place to stay during the care of the young woman. “It was since the bombing of the Campo di Marte in 1943 that the Meyer did not treat war wounded” declared Alberto Zanobini, director general of the Meyer, at the time of the 14-year-old’s arrival.
“The explosion – explains Beltrami today – had heavily compromised the bone tissue of the elbow and the nerves that allow the movement of the hands”. It was not possible to proceed immediately with the surgery on the arm because the doctors were forced to operate on the patient several times for a deep infection, resistant to many antibiotics, which was created inside the bone tissue. In the end, during the last surgery, it was possible to insert a spacer block with ‘local pearls’, capable of releasing the antibiotic directly on the infection. The multidisciplinary treatment proved to be decisive in keeping the infection under control and proceeding with the actual intervention. The preliminary computed tomography then allowed to photograph the anatomy of the healthy elbow, in order to be able to reconstruct the destroyed part in an anatomical way through the use of the 3D printer, capable of making a titanium prosthesis equal to the injured humerus. Furthermore, a cavity has been created inside the prosthesis, in which other pearls with antibiotics have been inserted that will be able to fight any new infections. Careggi’s hand surgery and reconstructive microsurgery team also intervened on the patient, who performed a revision of the nerves involved in the explosion, to restore full motor functionality to the patient in the future.