One of the most interesting application areas for 3D printing is in medicine. One of the areas we’ve looked at previously is in using 3D printing for medical and anatomical models. 3D printing also has many applications in other areas of medicine such as orthopedics. In orthopedics tens of thousands of 3D Printed surgical guides, acetabular cups and other orthopedic implants are 3D printed and used in patients each year. By making low volume or unique implants in titanium or plastics 3D printing can produce better patient outcomes at lower cost for patients and health systems. Many orthopedics companies are looking into certifying many more implants and medical devices at the moment and this is a vibrant area in 3D printing at the moment.
Patient Specific Surgical Guides
Perhaps as many as a 150,000 patient specific surgical guides have been used in patients so far. These are being used in oral surgery and in orthopedic surgery. These guides are made on the basis of 3D scans from CT or MRI information. Unique polymer surgical guides are then 3D printed and placed in patients. These guides tell the surgeon where to cut and are removed after the procedure. In patient specific medicine like this 3D printing has the advantage of cost effectively being able to make unique geometries.
Hip cups, 3D printed in titanium, are used for thousands of procedures each year. These cups are significantly less expensive than the non-3D printed ones that they are replacing in hospitals worldwide. The surface texture of these titanium cups is optimized so that bone growth is promoted. The ability to change and optimize surface texture is a major advantage of 3D printing processes. In the future textures may even be adapted to particular cases or types of patients.
Hip replacement or prosthetics
Whereas initially only the acetabular cups were 3D printed now more surgeons are looking at hip prosthetics or partial hip replacement using 3D printing. With cancers or severe trauma sufferers often have unique hip problems that need unique solutions. In such cases 3D printing’s ability to quickly go from a scan to a part also is an asset.