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Applications of 3D Printing Technology in Lower Limb Deformity Correction Surgery

Traditional Lower Limb Correction Surgeries

Deformity correction of the lower limbs primarily focuses on the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone), by cutting off a wedge of bone and repositioning the limbs to the correct alignment, proper functionality can be restored.

After the surgery, patients would be required to wear an external fixation frame for approximately 6 to 12 months, with pins piercing through the skin to the bone for stabilisation.

Application of 3D-Printed Patient-Specific Instrument

The steps involved in 3D-printing assisted lower limb correction are as follows: First, the patient has to go through a detailed 3-Dimensional computer scan, where the surgeon assesses the extent of the deformity through the 3D images generated, then fabricate the patient-specific instrument required for the corrective procedure.

These patient-specific instruments serve multiple functions which include showing clear marks as cutting guidelines, and securing the fixation of bones after osteotomy. This results in great accuracy in cutting and realignment of bones. The final step is the internal fixation of plates and screws, the surgery would be complete. The instrument would be removed in piecemeal throughout the surgery.

Advantages of the New Technique

The new technique allows the surgeon to conduct trials and simulated operations based on the data obtained from the patient scans, and print a real size 3D bone model for rehearsal. The bone model can be adjusted if necessary. The multiple functionalities of the patient-specific instrument also improves the efficiency of the surgery by reducing the amount of time required to ascertain the correct cutting and realignment positions.

Without the need to wear external fixation frames, the range of motion in the patient's knees increases extensively. While traditional methods would sometimes require hospitalisation in excess of 200 days, patient could now be discharged as soon as 4 days after the surgery; with the complete recovery shortened from 12 months to as fast as one month, the patient could resume their ordinary lives much earlier.

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