Stephanie Benoit June 21, 2016

For 11-year-old Amarachi Austin-Okoh, running, jumping and even walking was a struggle. She suffered from a condition called Blount’s Disease, where the tibia, or shin bone, doesn’t grow properly, causing the legs to develop a bow shape. The disease had progressed so far in Amarachi’s case that even walking caused her great pain, and she explained that “It was very painful and hard, and, then, if people were walking a distance or something, I would start walking slower and slower, because it got harder and harder.”

 

Her family had already noticed the condition when Amarachi was just two years old, but despite having a few corrective surgeries in Nigeria, where the Austin-Okoh family is originally from, her legs continued to worsen. The family approached Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to see if they could make a difference.

The doctors at the Limb Lengthening and Regeneration Clinic knew they could help Amarachi if they took a team approach to the problem. By making full use of Mayo Clinic’s 3D Anatomic Modeling Lab, they were able to print out exact models of Amarachi’s leg bones to make crucial decisions prior to surgery. Dr. Todd Milbrandt, the surgeon who operated on Amarachi, was able to use the model to figure out where he would make a cut in the tibia, so that the bones could regrow and align properly. During the operation, he knew what to expect due to the pre-operative planning, and made a cut just below each knee. Dr. Andrew Sems then attached external braces (or “fixators”) to Amarachi’s legs after the operation and carefully adjusted them over the next three months according to computer calculations. By making adjustments to the fixators, Dr. Sems was able to gradually straighten the bones – basically by growing and correcting the bones at the same time.

3D-printed models of a case of Blount's Disease
Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

The outcome was everything Amarachi and her family could have hoped for – she gained almost 25cm in height and now walks with straight legs and no pain. She concluded, “I’m excited now, because it has opened a whole new horizon. I can do anything and everything I want to do.”

Would you like to see more cases in which patient-specific 3D Printing is the optimal way to go? Watch our THINK Orthopedics | Medical 3D Printing orthopedic webinar series to learn how other surgeons use Materialise and Medical 3D Printing to change their patients' lives for the better!

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