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Will 3D Printing Revolutionize Orthopedic Implant Surgery?

Medscape.com interviews Timothy M. Wright, PhD, director of biomechanics at HSS, about how 3D printing is being applied in orthopedics to enhance joint replacements.

Dr. Wright explained for quite some time when someone had a joint replacement, the implant components were attached to the bone with a “grout” called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). While PMMA has its advantages of rigidly fixating the bone and implant together, it can also be abrasive against the bone if the implant begins to loosen. For hip replacements, the components were made with porous metallic coatings to eliminate the cement, allowing surgeons to place the porous part of the implant directly against the bone. The bone then grows to fill in the porosities, and this has removed the concern of the potential side effects of bone cement.

Dr. Wright described the general application of 3D printing in orthopedics is to change the texture of those coatings, and to also make porous structures that have very high porosity, higher than what you could make with conventional methods. He noted that implant companies and designers are taking advantage of the ability to improve that initial fixation by increasing both the coefficient of friction and the porosity.

Furthermore, Dr. Wright added, “It is a fascinating time to be in a field where we have designed with conventional materials for such a long time. And it isn't that we're changing the materials. We're not. We are just changing how we make them, and it opens up all these possibilities. It enables us to look at this multidimensional space in a different context in terms of design specifications and geometry.”

Read the full article at Medscape.com.