Dec 19, 2017 | By Tess

A 61-year-old woman from Memphis, Tennessee has received a customized 3D printed knee implant to treat a bad case of osteoarthritis. The 3D printed implant was created by ConforMIS, a Massachusetts-based medical tech company.

Gail Blayde, a 61-year-old woman from Whitehaven, Memphis, had been suffering from osteoarthritis in her knees for several years. Not only was the condition painful, but it affected her mobility and forced her to change her once active lifestyle.

On a recent cruise, for instance, Blayde’s knees were causing her so much pain that she was barely about to get out of bed. On a more regular basis, the ex-Fedex employee relied on pain medication, a walker, and even a wheelchair to get through each day.

The cruise was, however, the final straw, and Blayde decided to seek a more permanent solution to her condition after coming back from it. After consulting doctors, Blayde was informed that her osteoarthritis had caused the cartilage in both her knees to be completely worn down, meaning that every time she moved, the bones in her knee could rub against each other, causing painful friction.

Her doctors also informed her that knee replacement surgery was a viable treatment and suggested using ConforMIS’ 3D printed knee replacement process, which is proving to be advantageous over standard knee implant processes.

Dr. Peter B. Lindy with his patient Gail Blayde

The process consists of first taking a CT scan of the patient’s knee, hip, and ankle bones, which is then put through ConforMIS’ proprietary software. The software transforms the scan data into an accurate 3D model of the patient’s anatomy and corrects any deformities.

The 3D model is then sent to a 3D printer, which produces a wax mold of the implant. The 3D printed wax mold is then used to cast the customized knee implant from medical-grade metal.

Blayde, who is one of the first people in the Memphis-area to receive a custom 3D printed knee implant, was operated on by Dr. Peter B. Lindy, a surgeon at East Memphis Orthopedic. Dr. Lindy is also one of the first surgeons in the region to implant a 3D printed device into a patient.

3D printed knee implants offer a number of advantages over conventionally made implants. For one, 3D printing offers the ability to produce one-off customized implants, which are built for a specific patient rather than standardized. “If it fits the patient better, it makes the patient more comfortable,” explained Dr. Lindy.

And while standardized implants come in a range of sizes, they often do not fit the patient perfectly and can cause overhangs if they are too big or leave gaps of bone exposed if they are too small. Further, if they are not a perfect fit, there is always the risk of implanting them with a bad alignment, which can cause more pain for a patient.

Now, as 3D printing technologies become more affordable, customized 3D printed implants will gradually become more accessible. At the moment, however, Blayde is one of a small number of people who has benefited from ConforMIS’ 3D printed knee implants. She is already feeling the benefits.

“Before [the surgeries] I didn't want to do anything but sit around the house,” she said. Since having one of her knees replaced in June and having the second one done in August, Blayde is able to move freely again and does not need to rely on pain medication to get through her day.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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