Innovative Use of 3D Printed Hip Joint Changing the Surgical Norms

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In 1977 Meryl Richards injured her hip in a car accident. Since then she has experienced chronic pain and disfigurement, with her left leg bone pushing up through her hipbone, weakened by six operations, resulting in one leg being a full 2 inches shorter than the other. In the past years she has used crutches and walking sticks and had resigned herself to the idea that she would soon be in a wheelchair.

bitmap1Hope for her came in the form of a 3-D printed hip implant designed by Mobelife, daughter company to Materialise. Dr. Dunlop, of Southampton Gen. Hospital in the UK approached her problem creatively, by using a 3D printed hip implant which was able to act as a replacement socket by which the ball of the femur bone could interface with the pelvis.

This tailored made joint is printed using titanium from a scan of Meryl’s hip, meaning that it will match the damaged area perfectly. It was then held into place using Meryl’s own stem cells, a technique that has been perfected in a series of recent 3D printed surgical procedures after rigorous clinical testing. In addition, the implant’s porous structure creates a perfect platform for the ingrowth of her natural bone, making the implant as strong as her natural bone would have been.

After hearing about the possibilities provided through this procedure, Meryl was, understandably, bubbling with enthusiasm, “It’s absolutely fantastic – this 3D printing is just taking off, isn’t it? We’ll all be able to come in and have knee replacements made specially for us!”

gif2While this procedure is currently much more expensive than traditional surgeries, Meryl’s particular operation ran approximately $20,000, however, the costs are sure to come down in the future as more and more patients have this type of ‘bespoke’ surgical implantation performed. When put up against the staggering cost of all of her previous surgeries combined, this procedure is actually relatively inexpensive. After all, the true costs have been so much more than just the individual operations.

The benefits also extend beyond resolving Meryl’s hip problem. The ability to plan so much of the surgery in advance shortened the procedure itself and relieved the surgeons of a great deal of stress they often experience while confronting the unknown. A shorter surgery also means a lower risk of infection, which is always a concern in any invasive operation. The surgeons expressed their sincere hope that this would be the last time that she had to come back to the operating room. If all goes as planned, Meryl should make a full recovery and be free of pain for the first time in 35 years.

The healthcare industry seems to be adopting 3D printing at an exponentially increasing rate.  Let’s hear your thoughts on this hip implant, spurred on by Materializes’s technology in the 3D printed hip forum thread at 3DPB.com.

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