Jun 21, 2016 | By Tess

For the first time in the country’s history, a team of South Korean doctors have successfully implanted a 3D printed heel bone into a patient’s foot, who was suffering from a severe tumor. The innovative surgery is one of over a hundred successful surgeries involving 3D printed implants in Korea this year, and is another example of the many benefits 3D printed prosthetics and implants can offer.

Before 3D printing, the patient in question, a young man in his 20s suffering from a tumor in his foot, would have likely needed to wait for a bone tissue donor, a process which can take a long time, or even have his foot amputated to keep the disease from spreading. With CT scanning and 3D printing technologies, however, the patient was fortunate enough to have a custom made implant ready for him in just a couple weeks.

In making the custom implant, the doctors first captured a CT scan of the patient’s foot, which they were then able to translate into a digital 3D model on which they designed the implant. With the digital design complete, the heel implant was then additively manufactured out of a titanium alloy—a safe and strong material traditionally used for 3D printed implants—using a laser beam additive manufacturing technology.

Dr. Kang Hyun Guy, an orthopedic surgeon at the National Cancer Center explains, “The heel bone is strong enough to support the patient’s weight and it perfectly fits his anatomy, significantly lowering the possibility of a complication developing down the line.”

Dr. Kang Hyun Guy

South Korea is one of the world’s leading countries in the way of 3D printed medical implants, as it was the first country in the world to officially approve 3D printed cranial skull implants. Just last month as well, the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety issued a statement announcing they were seeking fast-track approval for 3D printed medical devices.

As mentioned, the last year has already seen more than a hundred 3D printed implant surgeries in South Korea, and while not much can be said about long-term effects, the majority of them have been successful. For instance, a 16-year-old girl with a tumor in her pelvis was implanted with a 3D printed pelvic bone last year. Not only did the custom made implant cut the surgery time down by half, but it also helped to speed up the recovery process, as the patient was walking again in just a week.

Dr. Shin Dong-Ah, who led the surgery on the teen, shows the results of the surgery almost a year later. He says, “This is an X-ray that was taken of Ms. Kang [the patient] last month. You can see the ligaments have grown out and is perfectly attached to the implanted pelvic bone, meaning the surgery was a success.”

While approvals and regulations surrounding 3D printed medical devices are underway all around the globe, there is little doubt that they are heralding in an era of new and more efficient medical procedures.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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