Could the future of joint replacement be 3D?

In the UK, there are in excess of 160,000 hip and knee replacement operations performed every year and that number is just set to rise with an ever-growing ageing population experiencing joint wear and tear. Contributing to a rise in overall figures also is the increase in younger patient undergoing replacement operations.

Hip replacements, usually associated with the elderly, has seen a marked rise in the younger patient. Recently released NHS data points to a 76% increase in this operation in men and women under the age of 59.

Stephen Cannon, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons explained: “Chronic hip pain can have a devastating effect on quality of life and the ability to remain active. People don’t want to live with this pain if they can confidently undergo a hip replacement that’s successful and lasts. It’s no longer seen as a last resort.”

And it’s down in part to technological advances in hip replacements, particularly in relation to prosthetics, that is fueling this increased demand for an end to chronic hip pain in younger patients.

One size doesn’t fit all

In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of 3D-printing used in planning the operation and for patient-specific implants.

Younger patients that still want to remain fit and active, have higher expectations of the feel and function of their knee or hip replacement. Currently, there are various size prostheses available in total hip or knee replacement but shape is the same. Not only are hip and knee joints different sizes, but they are also shaped and contoured differently which is where custom-made prostheses using 3D printing is coming into its own.

Surgeons can also create hi-tech, virtual models of their patients before operating on knee and hip joints, and make the precise instruments using 3D printing technology, which could radically improve both the effectiveness of the surgery as well as reduce recovery times.

Fortius Hip Surgeon Giles Stafford, uses custom made patient specific 3D printed instrumentation and implants when it’s right for a patient. Using a 3D-printed prosthesis, allows the surgeon to fit a joint replacement that fits the knee or hip more exactly which means less bone has to be cut to fit the prosthesis. This is particularly important for a younger patient because they may require revision surgery in the future, so conserving as much bone as possible is of prime importance.

Other benefits of this type of precision joint replacement surgery, is that there is a larger surface area left for fixing the new prosthesis which typically results in a stronger and better melding of bone to implant. There is also less blood loss and the procedure can be quicker.

By Fortius Clinic Marylebone | Private Healthcare UK

Image Credit: OrthoIndy/iStock


About Peter Coffaro 818 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the orthopedic industry. Recognized by as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager and Distributor. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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