It seems that in nearly every corner of the world 3d printing is finding new ways to revolutionize modern healthcare. A 71 year-old man in Australia was facing surgery in order to treat a rare form of cartilage cancer in his heel. Most patients who need surgery for this type of cancer end up with an amputation below the knee because it is nearly impossible to walk without a heel and until now there was no easy way to create a heel. But Len Chandler had already survived prostate cancer, two knee replacements and the loss of an eye after a workplace accident was not quite ready to give up. Though he braced for the worst he hoped for another option.
But the surgeons at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne found another option. Instead they scanned Len Chandler’s healthy heel and created a digital image. This allowed them to create a plastic model of his heel. This model allowed scientists at CSIRO to create a titanium heel that was then surgically implanted by surgeons at St. Vincent. Surgery took place in July and after 12 days in the hospital, Len Chandler returned home and is already walking with crutches. He states that it feels great and works perfect, something that is surprising for what is such a complicated prosthesis.
Bone prosthesis are hard to make because they must simulate all the processes that the bone would normally have. The heel must match with the shin coming down and the toes coming out, all of which have complex surfaces that are hard to match. The prosthesis must be polished and contoured just like the heel and without scans and 3d printing it would not be possible to create a prosthesis that fits perfectly.
Main Image Credit: http://www.abc.net.au