Imagine an orthopedic surgeon printing customized ankle bones with a printer and implanting them into patients to help them walk again. Consider a surgeon printing reconstructive wedges for an ankle surgery in his office and using them to replace staples, screws and plates. While these scenarios may seem like science fiction, advances in 3-dimensional medical printing are turning them into reality.
The human ankle is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and almost 100 muscles. Together, these components bear a significant portion of the body weight and are exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Ankle problems, such as arthritis, can be immensely painful and debilitating. The condition impacts about 1 – 4 percent of the population, as per an article published in the 2010 edition of the journal Current Opinion in Rheumatology. Conservative treatments include medications, physical therapy and devices. If these treatments fail, the patient may require surgical interventions such as arthroscopic debridement or arthrodesis.