A globe-trotting opera singer and teacher has become the first person in the UK to receive a pair of 3D printed artificial knees. Paula Anglin, now of Sussex, UK, was in considerable pain and her mobility was cut to nearly nothing. Her arthritic knees brought an end to her stage performing career, and she was searching for relief.
Fortunately, Anglin found an answer in a process pioneered by ConforMIS which takes a CT scan of a patient’s knee and builds a replacement from that data which closely matches the structure of the original knee.
ConforMIS is a privately held company, formed in 2004, that develops and commercializes devices for the treatment of osteoarthritis and joint damage, and their technology arises from FDA-approved partial and total knee replacement systems which are “sized and shaped to match each patient’s unique anatomy for the potential of a more natural feeling knee.”
So far, the company boasts more than 375 patents and patent applications related to the manufacture, image processing, patient-specific implant systems, patient-specific surgical techniques and patient-specific instrumentation.
The implants, created with cobalt chromium molybdenum, a high-grade metal often used in orthopedic implants, is used in conjunction with tibial and patellar inserts created from ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) or, in some cases, with what’s called vitamin-infused UHMWPE.
ConforMIS says they’ve refined the process to the point where a patient can often return to office work within two or three weeks following a procedure.
The company’s automated design process makes use of a set of proprietary algorithms used to map the articular surface of the affected joint in three dimensions. The software then interprets that data to design the implants and instrumentation needed for the replacement. As part of the process, the precisely-matched 3D model of the knee can be corrected to address any arthritic deformities like bone spurs, cysts or flattened areas of the joint.
Anglin, who once studied with Raymond Nilsson and sang with the San Francisco Opera in contralto roles, also established a successful teaching career when she began working with singers back in 1983. With students singing in several of the world’s major opera houses and concert venues, Anglin travels between Los Angeles, San Diego, Vienna and Madrid, and is now based in London.
“Life was pretty bad – I was walking round like Groucho Marx,” Anglin told the Mirror. “I couldn’t stand and sing for more than five minutes. Traveling, which is a big part of my job, was almost impossible.Now I have my life back. I’m doing yoga, I’m riding my bike and I can enjoy walking along the seafront near my home.”
Anglin received her ConforMIS iDuo G2 Implants once they were printed out in US, and the company says they should last for at least 15 years. There are around 85,000 knee replacement operations in the UK every year, and a total replacement involves replacing worn parts of the three bones in the joint with the metal and plastic implants.
What do you think of medical applications of 3D printing technology like those pioneered by ConforMIS? Let us know in the 3D Printed Knee Replacement forum thread on 3DPB.com.