MILFORD -- We've come a long way from the dot matrix and ink jet printers of yesteryear.
Doctors at Milford Hospital have begun offering their patients the option of a custom-made replacement knee created by a 3-D printer. A Boston-based company called ConforMIS has built a system that uses 3-D printing technology to replicate knee joints, and the technology is now being used in surgical procedures.
Dr. Amit Lahav, an orthopedic surgeon at Milford Hospital who also has an engineering degree, has been pleased with the results of the new technology. "It's made for you specifically and only fits you," Lahav said. "It's almost like capping a tooth, you have your root but we give you a new surface to chew with -- so here we give you a new surface to walk with.
The first step happens when doctors take intricate cat-scans of a patient's leg and then gather all the necessary dimensions to create a model. Then the 3-D printer goes to work.
"I can make a model of your knee which is printed in 3-D and it literally makes what your normal anatomy is."
It's so close to your normal anatomy that Dr. Aaron Schachter, Dr. Lahav's partner in the orthopedic surgery department at Milford Hospital, says the new knee is no more than a matter of micrometers from a patient's original knee. "It's still an artificial knee," Dr. Schachter said, "but it moves more normally and the stability, especially in the mid range of motion, is much more natural."
This past winter, after decades of knee degeneration and constant pain, Lucille Clancy of Orange had the surgery and received her new 3-D printed knee. "It was amazing," Clancy said, "I feel good to go." After needing a cane to get around, Clancy is now walking on a treadmill with ease. Dr. Lahav added, "She is able to do what she wants to do and this is a complete new chapter in her life."