Could you imagine feeling pain in your hip every day for over 35 years? Seventy-one-year old Meryl Richards knows this feeling all too well: she has lived with pain in her left hip since it was damaged in a car accident in 1977. She had already undergone six surgeries, which left her hip in an extremely fragile state, and it had gotten to the point that her left leg pushed up through her feeble hip bone, leaving her leg two inches shorter than her right counterpart. She had used crutches and sticks to help her walk for years, and thought she would soon be bound to her wheelchair for the rest of her life.
However, Meryl’s fate changed when Dr. Dunlop at Southampton General Hospital in the UK came to her rescue. What he did was truly innovative: he used a 3D printed hip implant, designed by Materialise’s daughter company Mobelife, to act as a new socket for the ball of the femur bone to enter the pelvis. Before the surgery, Mobelife used CT data to find the highest-quality bone and make drill guides to use during the surgery so the doctors would know where exactly to screw the implant in place.
Also during the surgery, the doctors placed some stem cells between the bone and implant to facilitate bone growth through the implant’s porous structure. Thanks to 3D Printing, the implant could not only be customized, but it could also have a porous structure. I’ve previously written about the benefits of OBL’s 3D-printed titanium implants, and similar to OBL, Mobelife’s implants also have a porous structure that are optimized for natural bone ingrowth and engineered to mimic bone properties. This is an improvement on traditional implants that sit on top of the bone and do not facilitate this type of growth.
Meryl was delighted about the result of the surgery. Watch Sky News report on the surgery to see Meryl’s journey and the doctors who helped her to get back on her feet: