For the past five years, Irene Griffiths has not been able to walk unaided. It’s something that faces many people as they age: her spirit simply outpaced her knees. When she lost her husband of 53 years, she decided it was time to address the problem she had been having with both of her knees. After reading about the use of 3D printing to produce new joints from scans taken from the patient, she sought out Dr. Muthu Ganapathi who was able to perform knee replacement surgery using 3D printed knee joints.
“I had never been in hospital my whole life so I was very nervous but when you’re on your own you can’t take risks. What if I had a fall and broke my hip? But I did dilly-dally and it was five years before I decided to do something about it. I should have had it done before, but in some ways I’m glad I waited as the technology wouldn’t have been there. Once I realized how amazing it was, I waited six months and went back to have the other knee done. The second one was truly amazing. I recovered enough to drive and everything after four weeks and didn’t even need to take pain killers.”
The 85-year-old arrived in Conwy from Italy 70 years ago and has spent her entire life since then working in the family business of Parisella ice cream. And just because many people would have retired by now or given in to the urge to fade quietly away doesn’t mean that she wanted to go that route:
“I still do a bit when I can and now I’ve recovered and got my new knees there’s no stopping me. At my age, I don’t want to stop and just sit down.”
A picture of the beaming Griffiths and her hero, the surgeon, Dr. Ganapathi, was recently printed in the Daily Post, where the happy woman exclaimed:
“Mr. Ganapathi and his team were brilliant. I am really indebted to them. I have absolutely no pain and I feel like a new woman – and that’s me at 85!”
Dr. Ganapathi has served as a consultant at the Spire Yale Hospital since 2010 and is a leader in the field in using 3D printed joint replacements. Since 2012, he has carried out over 400 such procedures, giving an idea of the more mainstream nature of what would have once seemed an impossible technology. He described his continued excitement about the possibilities 3D printing provides:
“It is like science fiction really. Instead of using traditional manual instruments which involves a degree of ‘eye balling’ during surgery, I can plan the whole surgery on a 3D computer model of the patient’s knee. When I first heard about it, I was quite skeptical myself but the results have been amazing.”
The primary benefits of utilizing this procedure is in the efficiency it creates. Ganapathi noted that waiting times in Wales were excessively long and that being able to perform this procedure more quickly means that more people will be able to benefit from it.
“I was one of the first doctors to use the technique in the UK and I was able to show that we could carry out five or six knee replacements in a theater list when that had previously been three or four per list,” explained Ganapathi. “However, you can do the surgeries fast but that doesn’t mean anything if the outcome isn’t good.”
Luckily, it is good. Quite good in fact. More than just one study has shown that as many as 20% of all knee replacement patients are not satisfied with the outcome of their procedure. This all has changed according to Ganapathi, who explained that they are able to achieve precision of up to half of a millimeter within their printed models.
“With this technique, the knee replacement procedure becomes like a Formula One pit stop – fast, efficient, and reproducible,” stated Ganapathi.
Certainly this technology is changing the way in which surgeons are able to fulfill their duties to their patients, providing them with years of additional healthy activity. Let’s hear your thoughts on Griffith’s surgery and how this technology will change the very face of knee replacement procedures. Discuss in the 3D Printed Knee Forum thread on 3DPB.com.