The Herman Trend Alert
October 12, 2016
3D Printing of Joints and Bones
Recently, our author, Joyce Gioia attended the VoyagerMed Medical Innovation Summit in New York City. There, the company showcased the work of the leading physicians in their fields whom they represent. This Herman Trend Alert, the first of a series, is the result of an interview with Selene Parekh, MD. Dr. Parekh with Duke University Medical Center, is one of the first orthopedic surgeons to embrace the advantages of the new 3D Printing technology that involves construction of custom-crafted joints and bones.
Revisiting 3D printing
3D printing, originally called Additive Manufacturing, is the creation of an object accomplished by using the process of laying down successive layers of material until the object is complete. 3D printing can create a wide variety of different types of structures, using plastics, metals, and even living cells. By this means, orthopedic surgeons are able to 3D print in titanium, cobalt, and chromium.
CAT scans and software
Detailed CAT scans of the bones and joints in combination with proprietary software are used to render the scans into a 3D drawing of the patientŐs anatomy. Using these scans, the surgeon is able to create a customized implant, instruments, or bone, produced to the patient's precise measurements.
The benefits of customization
By fashioning the hip or knee joint to the individual patient, surgeons hope to achieve a better anatomical fit. Therefore, hopefully this type of joint replacement will serve the patient longer than the 15 and 20 years than the off-the-shelf joints have typically lasted.
In the past, in cases of devastating infections, traumatic injury, or deformities, the only option surgeons had was amputation of the affected limbs. With the ability to print large sections of replacement "bones" and titanium scaffolds for bone cells, people with these medical problems may now be able to keep their limbs---a giant leap forward for orthopedics and medicine. And because the scaffold is made of titanium, in most cases, the patients can be on their feet and walking two to four weeks after the surgery.
We expect to see more use of living cells to create bone, as well as the use of 3D printing for other joints. When asked, "What's next?", Dr. Parekh said he sees, "solutions that involve 3D printing of live bone and cells to fill-in bone defects and injured joints".
In the not-too-distant future, this kind of 3D printer will be indispensable in war zones to craft replacement bones and joints onsite.
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