Dec 31, 2015 | By Benedict
Kirkland, Washington based surgeon Dr. Vincent Santoro is one of a new generation of medical professionals to successfully utilize the unique Image-to-Implant® 3D printing process developed by ConforMIS. The medical 3D printing company raised $135M in July after going public on NASDAQ.
Santoro, a surgeon at the Evergreen Health Orthopedics and Sports Care, has specialized in knee and shoulder surgery for most of his career. After discovering the ConforMIS 3D imaging and 3D printing technology at a Las Vegas Symposium, the forward-thinking doctor was keen to try it out.
“Like any new innovation, you read about these things, you hear about it from colleagues, and it’s a matter of testing it out,” he said. “The way it was instructed, and the way it anatomically fits, just kind of made sense.”
The ConforMIS Image-to-Implant® process allows medical professions to order a set of fully customized implants and “iJig®” 3D printed guides and instruments, based on the specific anatomy of a patient. The company uses data from a patient’s CT scan to generate an accurate 3D image of the knee joint, which is then used to design a fully patient-specific set of implants and 3D printed medical instruments. ConforMIS then ships the whole set of parts to the operating surgeon, who can use the pre-sterilized implants and instruments straight from the box.
Santoro recently used the 3D printed gear on a patient whose knee had been replaced six years previously, but whose prosthesis was causing him severe pain. Thanks to the new implant, the patient underwent a rapid recovery period and was even able to resume horseback riding within a short space of time.
“I felt this was something that made sense, especially when 15-20 percent of patients end up having pain post-operatively,” said Santoro. “Some of the reasons [for this pain] are mismatch of the implant to the person—maybe too small, maybe too big.”
By using a customized partial knee implant such as the ConforMIS iUni® model, surgeons like Santoro are able to preserve parts of an arthritic patient’s knee which are unaffected by the arthritis. This is also helps to prevent misalignments with the new knee or other complications.
“Sometimes pain comes from reasons that there’s no clear cut answer,” Santoro explained. “Sometimes an x-ray looks absolutely perfect, but there’s maybe some element of soft tissue impingement. That’s a very common problem. It doesn’t feel right.”
The surgeon has only good things to say about the ConforMIS 3D imaging and 3D printing technology, which enables prostheses to fit perfectly to an individual patient’s knee.
“I think the key is that with the CT scan, you are putting this prothesis in the absolutely correct position as long as you align everything,” he said. “You are recreating the normal mechanical access and bringing it back to the joint. That can’t be said for stock protheses. There are always changes in the joint line because again the prothesis doesn’t always fit perfectly.”
Santoro even believes that the improved fit of the prostheses will give them a longer lifespan than traditionally made alternatives.
“No prothesis will last a lifetime, but the idea is to try to increase the 12-15 years that we’re seeing now, and trying to get them into the 20-25 years.”
A specialist in sports injury treatment and recovery, Santoro sees the primary beneficiaries of the ConforMIS 3D imaging and 3D printing technology being younger patients.
“I think as we get older, if there’s going to be areas with deformity when we’re in our 70 or 80s, I’m not sure we need to use it,” he said. “But if you really think about it with high functioning people…it’s definitely the way to go.”
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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