A man who has lost half his pelvis to bone cancer can be relieved thanks to 3D printing, as the technique enabled a surgeon to create a complete new pelvis for the patient. The doctor, Craig Gerrand, used 3D printing as well as scanning techniques in order to perform what appears to be the first transplant of its kind. In three years time, the patient – a man in his 60s – will even be capable of walking again using a stick.
The patient was unlucky to get a rare bone cancer called chondrosarcoma, and unfortunately radiotherapy and drugs didn’t make the cancer leave. Therefore, the man had to get rid of half his pelvis. Gerrand, who is a consultant orthopedic surgeon working at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, was searching for ways to get the patient’s pelvis fixed again and he came up with a 3D printing technique.
He first 3D scanned the pelvis of the patient, in order to measure how much of the damaged pelvis had to be restored. The 3D scans were then sent to British company Stanmore Implants in Elstree. This company used titanium powder to create a new half pelvis and robotically inserted the artificial pelvis into the man.
Normally in such cases surgeons can just make a standard implant by hand, but in this case it wasn’t possible, since so much bone was removed as a result of stopping the spread of cancer. There was a small risk that the 3D printed implant wouldn’t fit or would even fracture, but the patient took it for granted. Happily for him, none of this happened and this operation can therefore be seen as another proof of 3D printing being a useful technique in the world of medical implants.
By far, this wasn’t the first medical 3D printing operation. At the fall of 2013 we reported that the first 3D printed liver is set to be delivered at the end of 2014. This liver is a creation of San Diego company Organovo and it has already proven to survive up to 40 days. In November last year, we got the news that a team from Morriston Hospital in Swansea, England was using 3D printing techniques to restore a patient’s face, after this patient suffered from a terrible motorbike accident. 3D printing and CT scanning techniques enabled them to design titanium implants for the patient’s face.
Another story came from London’s Fripp Design Research and Manchester Metropolitan University, as their researchers came up with a 3D printing technique to create 150 prosthetic eyes in just one hour. To put this in perspective: normally this would take weeks.
Image credits: Telegraph.