Doctors at Peking University are using custom 3D printed titanium implants to help improve spinal surgery outcomes for patients.
Over the last four years Dr. Liu Zhonggjun has been using spinal implants that are printed using an Electron Beam Melting (EBM) 3D printer which are custom designed to fit the patients body. Traditional orthopedic surgery uses metal pins and plates to join a broken pelvis or spine, but his new 3D printed implants have the advantage that they reduce pressure on the bones.
“We started clinical trials on 3D printed implants late last year, and now we have used dozens of such implants for more than 50 patients,” said Liu. “All the [implant] patients recover very well. Nobody seems to have any undesirable side effects or adverse reaction.”
The titanium implants are designed using a patient’s x-rays and CT scans so that they fit perfectly into place and the 3D printing technology has impressed Dr Liu.
“3D printing technology has two very nice features: 1. It can print specific structures; 2. It is capable of producing porous metal.”, says Dr. Liu
This 3D printed porous metal provides and additional advantage in that the patient’s own bone can grow into the titanium implant making it stronger and more reliable.
Dr. Liu and his team are currently waiting for approval of his new technique from the Chinese health authorities, after which the 3D printed implants will be used throughout China.