simsA broken hip can be a devastating injury, especially in older people, who are more prone to fragility and complications. For a young person, however, it can be just as life-destroying. That was the case with a 34-year-old Indian television channel proprietor named Pradeep, who broke his hip in an accident two years ago. He underwent several surgeries after the accident, but in each case the doctors declared that the break was too complicated and that they could do nothing for him. It looked as though he would not be able to walk again, until he encountered a surgical team familiar with 3D printing technology.

sims2SIMS Hospital in Chennai, India has a reputation for excellent medical care, and boasts the rapid adoption of the latest technology as one of its selling points. That technology includes 3D printing, which saved Pradeep’s hip. A CT scan was taken of his damaged joint, and the images were used to create a life-size, accurate-to-the-smallest-detail model which took 20 hours to 3D print. The doctors performed a practice surgery on the model, learning about the damage and about any potential difficulties or complications ahead of time. They then successfully performed the same surgery on Pradeep, who can now walk again after being told, multiple times, that nothing could be done for his injury.

“Hip replacement surgeries are complicated as it is difficult to reach the right position and implant the screws and sockets,” said SIMS joint director Dr P. Suryanarayan.  “But when we practice on a life size 3D model, the precision is unbelievable.”

Pradeep is actually one of three patients who have been successfully treated for hip injuries at SIMS thanks to the technique of rapid 3D prototyping. The technique is becoming more common in Western hospitals, particularly for delicate organ surgeries, but, according to Dr K. Sridhar, pro vice-chancellor (medical) of SIMS affiliate SRM University, it is a first for a South Indian hospital.

“We have utilised this technique to operate on three patients successfully for the first time in South India,” said Sridhar. “We have seen a rapid reduction in the time taken to complete the surgery and a higher chance of success.”

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Dr. K. Sridhar with three patients who underwent successful hip surgeries thanks to rapid 3D prototyping

Using rapid 3D prototyping to create high-resolution models significantly decreases the expense of the surgery, which lifts quite a bit of financial burden off the patients. They also spend a lot less time on the operating table. On average, the technique has decreased the length of surgery by about two and a half hours. With a detailed model of a surgerybroken hip, down to the smallest bone fragment, there are no surprises for the surgeons during the actual procedure.

“What these models helped us do was plan exactly how to approach each surgery and the materials and implants required to correct them. Earlier, the scans only allowed us to imagine where and what was in there,” said consultant surgeon Dr. Vijay C. Bose. “We do not have to rely on trial-and-error methods of surgery anymore. We have the exact model to rehearse on now.”

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