The advent of 3D printing is bringing major benefits for people needing to fix or replace old prostheses.
Dr Manish Gupta, an orthopaedic surgeon at Sydney’s Westmead Private Hospital, has already saved one woman from experiencing discomfort in her later years by employing the cutting-edge technology.
The 67-year-old came to him after having a fall that caused a fracture around the shoulder replacement she had implanted more than 25 years ago.
It had been causing her pain and stiffness even before the fall – she had to use a small portable clothesline as she could not reach up to a normal one – but she assumed she would just have to live with it.
“When I said to her, ‘No you don’t,’ she was absolutely gobsmacked,” Dr Gupta said.
“First we fixed her fractured humerus and once that healed, we fixed the prosthesis. We did a lot of 3D implant planning and got the custom prosthesis made for her.
“The surgery went beautifully and she was out of Westmead Private within a couple of days.”
Dr Gupta said 3D-printed implants would soon become “routine” as the technology advanced and was used more widely.
They are naturally resistant to bacterial infections, due to being impregnated with silver.
“We’re entering an era where we’re going to see a lot more revision surgery of these prostheses that were implanted more than a quarter of a century ago,” Dr Gupta said.
“They’re going to come with a lot of problems but when we marry it with the latest technology and can use patient-specific 3D-printed implants, we’re going to improve quality of life for a lot of people.
“Within a few years this will be routine and 3D-printed implants will be for everyone, not only revision surgery.”