July 4, 2014

Arthritic ankles can make it nearly impossible for sufferers to walk. But now there is another option: ankle replacement surgery for patients with severe osteoarthritis of the ankle, which usually develops following injury to the ankle joint. Although doctors say this should be patients' very last option, but 3D printing has made the surgery a very effective option.

Bettye Dube fell and crushed her ankle during her vacation in Jamaica. Dube said she had sprained her ankle before, but this time it was very different. She spent months in a cast, then underwent physical therapy for a few months, but didn't get better.

Dube's friends suggested her to met Dr. Marvin Brown, board certified orthopedic surgeon and foot & ankle specialist with The San Antonio Orthopaedic Group in Texas. Dr. Brown suggested ankle replacement surgery.

"We don't resurface the fibula joint, but we do resurface the other two joints and the blank spot, there's a piece of plastic there to keep metal from rubbing on metal," Brown said.

When it comes to joint implants, one size does not fit all. Dr Brown replaced the whole ankle with a high-tech modular prosthetic called "inbone." A 3D printer makes the parts that are put in the replacement part.

The modular design of the inbone and 3D printing allow the physician to select the appropriate components based on patient size and bone structure. This results in a more precise fit and less-invasive procedure.

"As time went by, we became better at understanding the mechanics of the ankle and so, modern prosthesis have a better natural mechanics to them. Which allows them to survive longer," Brown said.

Dube said she got her life back. "I was walking. I was able to walk. There was no pain particularly," Dube said. "It was a very successful surgery."

Although Dube can't wear high heels anymore, but if she keeps pressure off the ankle by avoiding high-impact exercise and watches her weight, the new ankle should last 10 years.

Watch below Dr. Brown discussed the Inbone procedure for total ankle replacement:


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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