3D Printed Joint Replacements: No longer is technology the barrier
An ACES conference in Melbourne has heard that existing 3D printing technology is offering surgeons an exciting opportunity to better provide patients with joint replacements, thanks to other technologies finally catching up.
Delegates at the AdBioFab conference at St Vicent's Hospital Melbourne heard from leading clinicians and researchers about the technology, also known as additive manufacturing because it prints a 3D object by adding layer upon layer.
Although it has been around for 30 years or so, it is the convergence with other technologies such as new nano-materials and high speed data connections that will allow 3D printing to shine, particularly in the field of medical bionics.
With Osteo-Arthritis affecting 3 million Australians, joint replacements are becoming more common and patients more demanding as they live healthier and longer lives.
AdBioFab presenter, Orthopedic Surgeon Professor Peter Choong, says that although a number of improvements have taken place including increased accuracy of replacements with the use of cameras in surgery, and new specially coated surfaces of joints, it is 3D printing that will see the most dramatic advances in joint replacement.
“You can imagine having to put a very very small joint in someone’s hand. This is so difficult. From a mechanical perspective, in fact it is quite challenging to do. These new ways of manufacturing through 3D printing is one way,” said Prof Choong.
With an 83 year old European woman receiving the world’s first 3D printed jaw transplant early in the year, it is clear that 3D printing is the way of the future in joint replacement, but is it really a reality in Australia?
“Let’s say a patient of mind might have a tumour,” said Prof Choong, “I use all my sophisticated computer software to dissect the tumour, then move the CT scanner into theatre and take all the information, transfer it via the broadband network that the government is putting up, into a machine that prints out a part. Someone pops the part into a box and brings it into theatre for me. Real time. What we can do with technology today!”
“The future really is incredibly exciting for all of us, and the way we can use technology. No longer is technology the barrier.”
Pictured: 3D printed objects, courtesy of AdBioFab sponsor Objective 3D