A British Surgeon Successfully 3-D Printed and Implanted a Pelvis

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Feb. 17 2014 12:12 PM

A British Surgeon Successfully 3-D Printed and Implanted a Pelvis

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3-D printing is revolutionizing health care.

Photo by JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

A British surgeon successfully implanted a 3-D printed pelvis for a man who lost half his pelvis to bone cancer, Madison Beerbohm of Healthpoint Capital reports. It was the first transplant of its kind.

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The patient, who is in his sixties and has remained unnamed, suffered from a rare type of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. It affected the entire right side of his pelvis. Since patients can appear completely healthy while suffering from the disease, chondrosarcoma often goes undetected until later stages of the cancer. It is generally resistant to radiation therapy, thus requiring treatment that includes the removal of the affected bones.

According to orthopedic surgeon Craig Gerrand, who performed the surgery, it would have been impossible to attach a standard implant because so much bone had to be removed.

3-D printing is revolutionizing the health care sector: The technology has been successfully used to make prosthetic limbs, custom hearing aids, and, potentially, human tissue by what is called "bioprinting."

In order to create the 3-D printed pelvis, the surgeons took scans of the man’s pelvis to take exact measurements of how much 3-D printed bone needed to be produced and passed it along to Stanmore Implants. The company used the scans to create a titanium 3-D replacement by fusing layers of titanium together and then coating it with a mineral that would allow the remaining bone cells to attach. 

After the titanium pelvis was attached, the team added a standard hip replacement to complete the surgery. The procedure, which happened three years ago, was an unrivaled success. The man has been walking with a cane and remains happy with the results.

Harrison Jacobs is a writer for Business Insider. Follow him on Twitter.