To achieve perfect alignment, operations often have to be repeated several times, costing the NHS an average of £60,000 per patient a year. In up to ten cases a week, repeated surgery fails, leaving amputation as the only option.
The new technique, developed by a team led by Professor Anan Shetty, director of stem-cell research at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, uses a combination of 3D printing and stem-cell therapy.
Doctors take a special type of CT scan of the bone from several angles, which is then used to create a 3D model of the limb on a computer. Often, new bone has grown that needs to be removed, after which a plate is used to fix the bone into the correct position.
Surgeons plan how the operation will be carried out beforehand and what the bone will look like after surgery on the computer screen. A life-size model of the bone post-operation is created using a 3D printer – a special machine that creates ‘sculptures’ by building up thousands of wafer-thin layers of plastic. The team uses this to prepare the steel plate that will hold the bone in place while it heals.
By Carol Davis | Daily Mail (UK)