Sep 1, 2015 | By Tess

Many recent advancements in the medical world are linked to the ever growing developments and applications of 3D printing technologies. From hearing aids and dental devices, to hip and knee replacements, to the bourgeoning field of bio printing, additive manufacturing continues to influence and facilitate medical breakthroughs.

Recently, China's Food and Drug Administration announced that China's self-developed 3D printed hip replacement (joint) has been commercially certified by the required state departments, and is set to be put to large-scale clinical use.

The approved 3D printed hip joint prosthesis was developed by Dr. Zhang Ke, Liu Zhong Jun, and Cai Hong of Peking University in cooperation with AK Medical, a Chinese private medical company. The 3D printer used in the manufacturing of the hip joint was designed by a Swedish company Arcam AB and uses the Electronic Beam Melting (EBM) method of manufacturing, a more precise method than laser sintering and one used by NASA for various experiments.

The benefits of opting for 3D printed prostheses are growing as the procedure becomes more popular and advantageous amongst both doctors and patients alike. The quality of the material – titanium or other high quality metal alloys is regularly used in hip-joint replacements – is often more durable than those of conventional artificial bone implants. Additionally, the process of 3D scanning the patient's body along with X-raying it allow for more precise and exact measurements and designs of the parts that need replacing. Whereas previous models for prostheses were largely manufactured in mass quantities in factories and often did not fit a patient's exact needs, the 3D printed implant is designed and created precisely for the patient in question.

Liu Zhongjun, an orthopaedist at PKU involved in the development of the artificial hip joint has said theirs is the first 3D printed hip prosthesis in the world to be formally approved by a government body. The certification marks an important first step in introducing 3D printed hip replacements on a large scale.

Another important benefit of having the 3D printed implant approved within China is the cost of the procedure for patients. Previously, patients were known to have paid up to 100,000 yuan (approximately 15,600 USD) for artificial hip implants as most were shipped from overseas, making the procedure quite inaccessible. With the number of hip replacement surgeries increasing in China by 30% almost every year – 2014 saw about 300,000 patients requiring the procedure – having the 3D printed models approved will greatly decrease the cost of the surgery and effectively make hip replacement surgery more accessible to those in need.

For the moment only the hip joint implant has been approved by China's Food and Drug Administration, but Liu Zhongjun predicts that many more 3D printed implants will be approved in the future, not only in China, but across the world.

As the world's leading information technology research and advisory company, Gartner Inc. has reported in their "Hype Cycle for 3D Printing 2015", much of the development in additive manufacturing over the past year has been linked to advancements in the medical field. That is, not only has 3D printing helped to develop and even potentially revolutionize certain procedures in the medical world, but the research done in the medical field has also influenced and advanced 3D printing technology. With the formal government approval of a 3D printed hip prosthesis in China having just occurred, we can only wait and see what other exciting progress the medical and 3D printing worlds will make together.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Ashley wrote at 2/26/2016 8:09:34 PM:

How much does it cost to have a total hip replacement (in Australian dollars)?

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