Eighteen-month-old Garrett Peterson has never been to his home in Utah. Instead, he spends his days confined to a hospital bed, attached to a ventilator. However, 3D printing technology will finally bring Garrett home. Physicians at The University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital implanted a 3D-printed splint into Garrett to open up his airways.

Garrett’s condition, called tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve, puts a great deal of pressure on the airways. He has also developed tracheobronchomalacia—a softening of the trachea and bronchi that causes his airways to be no more than small slits. The condition affects only one in 2200 babies, with most growing out of it by age 2 or 3. Cases as severe as Garrett’s represent 10% of that number.

Even at maximum ventilator pressure levels, Garrett’s didn’t show signs of improvement. It led to the decision to put him into a medically induced coma so that the ventilator would not work against him.

Not knowing how long the baby boy had, University of Michigan’s Scott Hollister, PhD, and Glenn Green, MD, received emergency clearance from the FDA to make and implant a tracheal splint made from polycaprolactone, a biopolymer. The splint, custom-fit to Garrett’s bronchi, was created using high-resolution imaging and computer-aided design via a CT scan on his trachea and bronchi.

The bioresorbable device is only the second ever created by Green and Hollister. Garrett’s parents originally got the idea from an article about the first baby saved by this device in May 2013. The article stated that after the baby’s second birthday, he was free from all tracheobronchomalacia symptoms.

On Jan. 31 of this year, Richard G. Ohye, MD, head of the Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at C.S. Mott, assisted by Green, performed the surgery by sewing two devices on two spots of Garrett’s airway. To provide external support for proper growth and expand his airways, two splints were sewn around Garrett’s left and right bronchi.

Garrett is now ready to go home, being able to ventilate both lungs while using less than a quarter of the ventilator pressure than before. According to the physicians, the splint will reabsorb into his body after about three years. His trachea will take about two to three years to remodel and grow into a healthy state.