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Man with 3-D Printed Pelvis Walks Again

The British press has lately been all a-buzz with the story of Craig Gerrand, MD, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust  (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, UK) who used a 3-D printer to replace a large section of a man's pelvis.

3-D printed pelvis
Craig Gerrand shows off a pelvis model.

The unnamed patient, in his 60s, was suffering from chondrosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Gerrand told Ben Farmer, reporting for The Telegraph (Chatham, Kent, UK), "Since this cancer does not respond to drugs or radiotherapy, the only option was to remove half of the pelvis."

Accepting the risks that the implant could fail to fit or fracture, the patient decided to go ahead, Gerrand said

The surgical team used a 3-D scanner to measure the exact amount of bone that needed to be  removed. In this case so much bone needed removing that nothing would have been left to which an implant could have been attached. The man's leg would have been left unattached to his spine and "hanging," and it would have been shorter than the other, the surgeon told the newspaper.

The 3-D scans were processed and sent to Stanmore Implants (Elstree, Herts, UK). Using the scans, specialists at Stanmore Implants used 3-D printing to make a custom model of the half-pelvis. Using a laser, they fused layer after layer of titanium powder to build up the replacement. After it was finished, the titanium pelvis was coated with a mineral into which the remaining bone could grow.

During the 12-hour operation, the team used robotic surgical navigation technology.

The doctor also spoke with the Daily Mail (London). He told Emine Sinmaz, "It's quite easy with a complex organ such as the pelvis to get lost or take too much or too little bone. Using surgical navigation technology means you can cut the bone exactly where you planned to cut."

After the diseased bone was removed, the implant was robotically inserted into the patient.  Then a standard hip replacement was fitted into the new titanium socket.

All the UK newspapers report that three years after the operation, the patient is able to walk with the aid of a stick.

Stephen Levy is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.

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