May 29, 2016 | By Alec
Though numerous academic hospitals around the world are steadily adopting 3D printed models and implants to deal with unusual or life-threatening cases, Chinese surgeons are really pushing the 3D printing envelope when it comes to surgical applications. Just last month, they even used a 4D printed tracheal stent to save the life of a patient. But these applications are also inspiring new insights into conventional surgical procedures, as is illustrated by a two recent surgeries in the Southwest Hospital of the Third Military Medical University in China. Two patients with severe ankle joint deformities were helped with 3D printed bone grafts, which not only made treatment more precise than when relying on conventional implants, but also significantly decreased the surgery’s impact a patient’s health.
Bone defects and joint diseases are becoming increasingly common in society, and can be caused by the severe trauma of car accidents, for instance, but also by bone tumors and degenerative old age diseases. In these cases, the malformed bones and joints make movement very painful. “The exact position of bone defects, in for instance the foot and ankle joints, can make walking especially painful for patients. It also impedes their ability to walk normally,” said Professor Yang Liu, Director of the Joint Surgery department of Southwest Hospital and leader of this 3D printing research initiative. The professor added that about 10 percent of all orthopedic and joint surgery patients have bone defects in some shape or form.