It sounds impossible, like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie: body parts and surgical instruments created with a 3-D printer — but it’s already happening right here in the Coachella Valley.
Dr. Raj Sinha of Star Orthopaedics in La Quinta is one of the first surgeons in the United States to offer customized total knee replacements replicated from advanced imaging models of the patient’s own joint. The single-use surgical instrumentation employed during surgery is created entirely with 3-D printing — which produces objects by laying down successive layers of material.
Before surgery, patients undergo a CT scan to create a surface map of the affected leg, recreating the area’s shape and size. The imaging is then used to make a mold to form the cobalt chromium and plastic joint component.
The disposable, sterile, 3-D printed surgical tools are also tailored from the scan, allowing for greater precision during the procedure, Sinha says: “It literally snaps onto the bone.”
Since these custom joints precisely mimic an individual’s anatomy, Sinha says they offer an exact fit, versus “off-the-shelf” implants that are available in a limited range of sizes. That can mean less bone removal during surgery, with far less pain and the typical three- to six-month recovery time cut in half.
“It’s perfect for everybody,” Sinha says. “It feels more like their normal knee.”
This type of 3-D printing technology may see other applications in the future, such as whole joints that also use a patient’s own biomaterial. Doctors in Britain recently implanted a 3-D-created titanium hip joint that incorporated stem cells.
See www.conformis.com for more information about the implant.