3D printed implant replaces dead bone

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A team of surgeons from UHealth Tower and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (FL, USA) have reported success in implanting a 3D printed, metal ankle bone implant.

The patient, Gracia Sylla, had been experiencing pain following the death of the talus bone tissue, a process known as by avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis, caused by a compromised blood supply typical of sickle cell disease.

As non-surgical approaches failed to make a difference, surgeons began to consider more invasive options. Typically, a surgical approach to a condition such as this would involve an ankle ‘fusion’.

“Fusion of the ankle would traditionally have been the best option available for this young woman. However, there are several serious drawbacks – including the inability to move the ankle and the need for a complex reconstruction to avoid having a leg length difference,” explained surgeon, Dr. Stephen Quinnan (UHealth).

“I had seen success while in Australia and similar reports from Japan using an exciting new solution to simply replace the talus bone with a 3D-printed talus bone,” Quinnan continued. 

“Due to her young age and the still normal appearance of the distal tibia part of the ankle joint, I thought this innovate approach was worth consideration. I discussed this with Dr. Amiethab Aiyer (UHealth), who noted he had recently met a 3D printing orthopedic company at a conference and we agreed to work together to offer the patient this exciting new treatment option.”

Following CT scans of Sylla’s ankle, the team prepared three 3D printed replacement talus implants to test the fit during the procedure. Once the team were able to agree on the best fitting implant which allowed maximum mobility, they were able to replace the ‘dead’ talus with the optimal cobalt chrome implant.

The team reports that the patient is recovering well, as Sylla concluded: 

“I am starting to put pressure on it and I can walk with one crutch. Before, I couldn’t put a lot of weight on it. It’s been great.”


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What other cases are there using 3D printed implants?

3D printed implants are on the rise: having proven themselves in veterinary and in a growing number of human cases, there is a growing interest in the ability to personalize implants on a case-by-case basis, tailored to complex conditions and even pre-empted complications (facilitated by anatomically accurate 3D printed models for pre-operative rehearsal).

Find out more about successful cases employing 3D printed implants:

What materials are used for 3D printed implants?

Exploring the key materials for orthopedic implants

There are now a fair few medical-grade filaments available for 3D printing implants, ranging in density and porosity, suitable for load-bearing implants to small, specialized implants for use in more delicate areas, such as in the inner ear or for dental applications.

Davide Sher, Co-founder of 3dpbm, discusses the use of titanium, thermoplastic materials, PEEK and ceramics in this editorial for 3DMedNet.

“We live in a ‘materials world’ and these are the 3D printable materials that are shaping the future of healthcare.”

>> Find out more about the key materials for 3D printed orthopedic implants

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