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World’s First 3D Printed Tibia Implant

Futurism reports on yet another 3D printing related medical breakthrough.  Surgeons from Queensland University of Technology in Australia and in Singapore have “successfully performed a world-first transplant surgery, installing a 3D printed tibia into the leg of Reuben Lichter, who faced losing his leg above the knee to amputation.”

Towards the beginning of this year, Lichter began to suffer from intense pain in his tibia.  He was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, which is a severe disease involving bacteria.  It had “infected his entire bone, causing it to gradually disintegrate.  When offered the chance to undergo this experimental procedure, he agreed to an attempt to save his leg rather than opt for amputation.”

Surgeons then went to work.  First, they “drained the pus from [Lichter’s] infected leg.  Prototypes of the 3D printed tibia scaffold were then tested.”

“The 3D printed tibia was wrapped in blood vessels and leg tissue from both of his legs…in the last in a series of five surgeries, the procedure was declared a success.  For the next nine months at least, the doctors hope to observe new, healthy bone growth in [Lichter’s] right shin supported by the transplanted scaffolding…Lichter is now doing well, and although it will take at least 18 months, doctors believe he will be walking again once he fully recovers.”

Later in 2017, “live sheep will be the subjects for experimental biomechanical research, which will assess the strength and pace of bone growth around the new shinbone.  As Dr. Michael Wagels, the lead surgeon explains: “we are not willing to take any chances with Reuben’s leg until that biomechanical testing has been done.”

As for the 3D printed tibia itself, it was “designed to promote bone growth around it, and to slowly dissolve over time.  Lichter’s two shin bones together provided the doctors with about half the tissue they needed for the procedure (the medical team harvested the remainder of the needed tissue from his left knee).  The tissue transplanted with the 3D printed scaffold is now beginning to grow in and around the frame as intended.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Futurism

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