Large format (ie, >25 cm2) cranioplasty is a challenging procedure not only from a cosmesis standpoint, but also in terms of ensuring that the patient’s brain will be well-protected from direct trauma. Until recently, when a patient’s own cranial flap was unavailable, these goals were unattainable. Recent advances in implant computer-aided design and 3-dimensional (3-D) printing are leveraging other advances in regenerative medicine. It is now possible to 3-D-print patient-specific implants from a variety of polymer, ceramic, or metal components. A skull template may be used to design the external shape of an implant that will become well integrated in the skull, while also providing beneficial distribution of mechanical force in the event of trauma. Furthermore, an internal pore geometry can be utilized to facilitate the seeding of banked allograft cells. Implants may be cultured in a bioreactor along with recombinant growth factors to produce implants coated with bone progenitor cells and extracellular matrix that appear to the body as a graft, albeit a tissue-engineered graft. The growth factors would be left behind in the bioreactor and the graft would resorb as new host bone invades the space and is remodeled into strong bone. As we describe in this review, such advancements will lead to optimal replacement of cranial defects that are both patient-specific and regenerative.
From: The Recent Revolution in the Design and Manufacture of Cranial Implants: Modern Advancements and Future Directions by Bonda et al.