leg2We’ve seen heartwarming stories of 3D printing coming to the aid of medical professionals around the globe, by providing tools for success, in surgeries which would not have even been attempted a few years ago. 3D printing, particularly that of creating medical models, has begun to remove the term “inoperable” from many surgeons’ vocabulary. In the past, many surgeons elected not to operate on cases which appeared to be too complicated, in fears of causing more damage to a patient, or even perhaps death. In the past 2-3 year though, we have begun to see surgeons, particularly in the United States, Western Europe, and China, begin to utilize 3D technology to create tangible replicas of patients’ body parts. These replicas provide a visual and tactile aid for surgeons to practice on and ultimately use as a reference guide during real-time surgery.

Out of China, comes yet another incredible case where 3D scanning and printing prevailed. For one young woman, named Xiaoqian, she had been living for over a decade with a severely deformed right leg. When she was just a 7-year-old first grader, she was in a serious car accident. The accident left her right tibia severely mangled, and even more damage was caused over the next several years as Xiaoqian’s bones continued to grow. After about 10 years, she was left with a leg that had a noticeable and unnatural bend to it. This bend made it so that she could not walk normally, as it left her right leg much smaller than her left.

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In 2014, Xiaoqian went to Xiangya Hospital, where she was evaluated by experts in the field. Her knee was not bending the correct way, so surgeons were able to correct that problem, but Dr. Tang Juyu wanted to do more. He wanted to correct the severely bent tibia as well.  After thinking about it for some time, Xiaoqian decided to go forward with the corrective surgery.

Using 3D scanning and 3D printing, Tang Juyu created a tangible copy of Xiaoqian’s leg, one which his surgical team spent over a month studying and practicing on. Juyu and his team were then able to develop a comprehensive tibial multi-plane correction osteotomy surgical plan. Using a comprehensive surgery which focused on repairing the entire tibia, doctors were able to successfully straighten Xiaoqian’s severely deformed right leg. Her leg was virtually “spliced in an ‘S’ shape” before having screws and plates attached to hold it in line. The surgery lasted about 3 hours, but in the end everyone was completely happy.

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“We transformed Xiaoqian’s ‘big bend deformity’ into one of several “small bends’ by using osteotomy,” Professor Tang Juyu said. “After rehabilitation and complete healing, she will be able to walk like a normal girl.”

This is the first surgery of its kind in China, and more than likely the rest of the world as well. Surely it won’t be the only one of its kind for much longer, as surgeons and doctors are really beginning to understand the benefits that 3D printing has within the operating room.

What do you think about this incredible corrective surgery, only made possible thanks to 3D technology? Discuss in the 3D Printed Tibia forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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