Apr. 21, 2015 | By Simon

Between the use of additive manufacturing to develop visualizations of anatomical features prior to surgical procedures or even using the technology to create actual implants themselves, 3D printing has been having a significant impact on nearly all sectors of the medical industry worldwide.  More recently, we’ve seen how even a patient himself was able to 3D print a model of his own cancerous tumor to use as a prop for giving presentations about his experience.  

Now, doctors at the Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University in Xinjiang, China have figured out how to use the technology to aid them in what is considered to be a highly-complex surgical procedure: hip-replacement surgery for a 42-year old woman who lives in the city.

The woman, named Ms. Zhao, had been suffering from hip pain for three years and the pain became so severe that she was unable to walk anymore.  After bouncing between medical facilities in search of a proper diagnosis and cure, it wasn’t until she arrived at the Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University that she found a sliver of hope.  

There, she met the director of the hospital’s orthopedic surgery department, Liu Dapeng, who diagnosed Ms. Zhao with congenital dislocation of the hip which was causing her the severe pain and subsequent inability to walk.   

According to Liu’s diagnosis, Ms. Zhao had significant articular surface wear to her hip and because it hadn’t been treated, was labeled as a “serious condition”.  The articular surface wear was isolated in the acetabulum region of Ms. Zhao’s hip which caused her leg to be 3 centimeters shorter than her unaffected leg, which ultimately threw the body out of alignment due to the overcompensation of support and weight balance.  

Although previous surgeries consisted of using reference photographs from CT scans and MRIs to create reference points for a surgical procedure, advancements in 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies allowed Depeng to use the same scan data to create a 3D model of Ms. Zhao’s pelvis - which was then reconstructed and 3D printed at a scale of 1:1.    

The 3D printed replica of Ms. Zhao’s pelvis was then used by doctors to plan out their surgical process for rebuilding her hip accurately and efficiently both before and during surgery.  

"Using this intraoperative 3D guide plate, we can clearly visualize the preoperative surgical site before the surgery and develop the most reasonable surgical plan. " said Liu. "Intraoperative 3D guide plates can also be used to assist precise positioning during the operation to ensure the accuracy of the surgery."

Upon completing the complicated and time-consuming surgery, the doctors considered it a success thanks in no small part to the planning and guidance that the 3D printed replica of the pelvis provided them. Ms. Zhao remained in bed for another 15 days and is now recovering well from her operation. According to Liu, the surgery costs just 10-20% more compared to traditional operations.

The success of recreating Ms. Zhao’s deteriorating hip is just one more example of how 3D printing is dramatically revolutionizing how things get done - whether it involves creating a physical object quickly and easily to fix a dishwasher or if it’s a more complicated model that’s used to fix an orthopedic condition.  

As for Ms. Zhao - she is expected to make a full-recovery.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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