May 16, 2014

A customized 3D-printed hip implant is expected to save a 71-year old woman from life in a wheelchair.

The 3D printed titanium implant was custom-made for Meryl Richards, using 3D files generated from detailed body scans.

After six hip operations her pelvis had become so weak that her leg had punched a hold through the bone. Her one leg was two inches shorter than the other, leaving her increasingly disabled by the pain.

British surgeons have for the first time tailor-made a new hip joint on a 3D printer, and used her own stem cells to hold it in place.

"Absolutely fantastic," Ms Richards said, "This 3D printing is just taking off, isn't it. Absolutely wonderful. So we will all be able to come in and have a knee replacement fit specially just for us and just take out an old part and put a new part back again. " Speaking to Sky News she said that without the technique she would soon have been in a wheelchair.

"For years now I've walked with crutches or stick," she said. "Hopefully this will give me movement and mobility again."

Mr Douglas Dunlop, the consultant surgeon of the Southampton University hospital in the UK who carried out the operation, said they sent CT body scans of her pelvis to the Belgian company Mobelife, a daughter company of Materialise, which is a specialist in implant design and production for challenging bone and joint reconstruction surgery.

The tailor-made socket for the new hip joint was built in thin layers from titanium powder that was sintered together by a laser. Because the implant is based on Ms. Richards body scan, it is a precise repair for the shattered bone. In addition the 3D printed implant allows the surgeons to prepare the operation in advance.

"It simplified the surgical technique and shortened the procedure." Mr Dunlop said. It is likely also to reduce the risk of a serious infection.

"The titanium used to make the hip is more durable and has been printed to match the patient's exact measurements - this should improve the fit."

"The benefits to the patient through this pioneering procedure are numerous." Mr Dunlop said.

Surgeons believe 3D printing could be a game changer for complex orthopaedic operations. Like other new technology, this is huge expensive for now. A 3D printed implant and the operation would cost 12,000 pounds, much more expensive than the traditional surgery. But hopefully in time the cost would come down as more patients will be having tailor-made surgery.

To increase the chances of success scientists at Southampton University developed a way of using Ms Richards' bone marrow stem cells as a "glue" to hold the implant securely in place.

Professor Richard Oreffo said cells are growing new bone around the implant. "It's going to be a much tighter fit. That will allow the structure to be much stronger and for Meryl we hope it will be the last time she comes back to the operating room." he explained.

If all goes well, Ms Richards' legs will once again be the same length and she will be able to walk pain-free without a limp.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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