AMS Spring 2023

3D Imaging and Printing Gives Athlete a Second Chance

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Image courtesy of Prof. Dr. Jan Victor, UZ Gent, Belgium

Avid windsurfer Koen was faced with the kind of untenable situation so many professional athletes fear: Agree to surgery to repair a painful and debilitating condition and risk having even less mobility following the procedure, or give up doing what they love forever. Koen’s situation was, in some ways, even worse as the lateral compartment arthritis in his left knee not only made windsurfing difficult and often excruciating, it also made most any activity involving the use of his left leg challenging and painful.

Koen had previously undergone a lateral menisectomy (the removal of some or all of the meniscus, the half-moon-shaped fibrocartilaginous structure that divides the joint cavity) along with an ACL reconstruction (ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament; it’s one of a pair of ligaments of the knee; they’re arranged in a kind of crossed formation). Those procedures didn’t help restore former mobility and eliminate his pain. Koen consulted with orthopedic surgeon Prof. Dr. Jan Victor at the Universitair Ziekenhuis (University Hospital) in Ghent, Belgium. Prof. Dr. Victor is also a knee specialist. After examining Koen, he felt that the patient would be an ideal candidate for a procedure called an osteotomy. With an osteotomy, the bone itself is cut to make some kind of an adjustment — for instance, to shorten, lengthen, or otherwise change its alignment.

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Image courtesy of Prof. Dr. Jan Victor, UZ Gent, Belgium

It probably goes without saying that a procedure like an osteotomy requires tremendous precision on the part of the surgeon. Knowing that even the most minute misalignment would actually increase Koen’s pain as well as the possibility of further wear on the knee, Prof. Dr. Victor created a comprehensive surgical plan that utilized the latest in 3D technology. He joined forces with 3D technology industry giant Materialise. Among other specialties, Materialise is an innovator in additive manufacturing, scanning, and software solutions specific to health care.

Together, Prof. Dr. Victor and a Clinical Engineer with Materialise’s Patient-Specific Solutions for Orthopedics set out to design a custom surgical plan for Koen. 3D scanning produced the necessary images and were the first step toward Koen’s osteotomy. The scans were used not merely to visualize the areas where deterioration and damage were present, but to provide a reference for creating a patient-specific, 3D printed surgical guide that the surgeon would use to make the precise incisions to create a wedge-shaped space in the bone and to place a supporting plate and screws at the proper angles. The guide used by Prof. Dr. Victor was 3D printed by Materialise and shipped prior to the surgery.koen

As a result of the 3D technology-aided surgery, Koen has complete mobility of his knee again. He no longer has pain nor does he experience any of the symptoms associated with his arthritis that had made movement so painful. Materialise not only helped Koen and teamed with Prof. Dr. Victor, but they invite surgeons — via the Submit Your Case section of their website — to contact them via their website. They offer a range of orthopedic solutions for arms, legs, shoulders, and knees.

Let us know what you think of this impressive use of 3D printing technology in the 3D Printed Surgical Guide for Windsurfer forum thread over at 3DPB.com. Check out the video below from Materialise outlining the seven step procedure, culminating in step seven: “A Satisfied Patient.”

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Image courtesy of Prof. Dr. Jan Victor, UZ Gent, Belgium

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