Not Just for the Omniplex: How 3D Saved a Woman From Amputation
Re-Creating History Using 3D Scanning
An interesting episode from the Smithsonian Channel’s “Secrets: King Richard III Revealed” documents a group of archeologists, historians, one enthusiast, and scientists on a quest to find the remains of King Richard III, made notorious from Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Spoiler alert: they did indeed find the bones of Richard, well-preserved, which then allowed the medical and science experts to begin their work in trying to recreate what Richard looked like.
The task was given to Caroline Wilkinson, Dundee University’s professor of craniofacial identification. She used a rapid prototyping system, which is essentially a 3D printout. After making the reproduction, others then made a model of Richard III which was, amazingly, eerily similar to the existing portrait we have of him.
From Past to Present
This interesting documentary is thrilling, but it’s about using science to uncover history. 3D scanning and printing, however, are also part of the future for medical professionals. Just ask Ruth-Smith Leigh from Suffolk, Virginia. After suffering a major injury in a car crash, she was told her leg needed to be amputated. However, she was fortunate enough to see Samuel Adams, MD, a foot and ankle specialist from Duke University, who altered the rest of her life for the better.
3D Scan To Save a Woman’s Leg
Dr. Adams began brainstorming medical possibilities and suddenly thought of 3D. After assessing the science, he then recommended something inspired: that a state-of-the-art 3D printed custom bone implant be developed to support the damaged area through implantation. Smith explains, “[The machine] 3D prints a titanium cage to replace the missing bone….It’s a scaffold. That bone will grow into a truss system [
How it Works
Adams explains, “[The machine] 3D prints a titanium cage to replace the missing bone….It’s a scaffold. That bone will grow into a truss system [a triangulated system of…structural elements used for support]. He continues, “Her own bones will grow into her implant and it’s just as strong as her native bone, if not stronger.”
This 3D printed implant had already been FDA approved, thus paving the way for a revolution in how patients with severe leg trauma can be treated.
The implant, designed for Smith-Leigh specifically, was done by a 3D imaging specialist company called 4Web. 4Web used her CT scans to build the model, and thus: a partial limb was recreated.
After four months to develop the implant, Smith-Leigh underwent surgery in February 2015. Afterward, she completed an extensive rehabilitation process of six weeks until she was finally able to go back to work in November. Amazingly, x-rays have shown her bone to be steadily growing within the 3D printed scaffolding perfectly. And while the leg will never be as flexible as it was before, she, through a combination of science, medicine, and ingenuity, was able to keep her leg.
“It’s a miracle,” Smith-Leigh said of the ground-breaking procedure. “It is the most awesome experience ever.”
Though Smith Leigh was the first person in the Southeast to receive a 3D printed implant, Adams believes this new technique is the future of implants for the whole country and that more will definitely follow, “Before this, we didn’t have anything to replace a large defect. Now we have this technology,” he states.
Sure Beats James Cameron, Don’t It?
Seeing the face of Richard III was thrilling on the Smithsonian episode. Soaking in the new “Star Wars” movie in 3D can put you into the action, unlike a two-dimensional viewing. But for 3D to save a woman’s leg after a severe trauma? That seems to be the most fantastic and wonderful use of 3D yet, I would argue. Wouldn’t you?
- The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed’. 2010. Accessed March 27, 2016. http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/the-kings-skeleton-richard-iii-revealed/0/3381029.
- 3D Printed Bone Implant Saved Virginia Woman’s Leg from Amputation’. 2011. Accessed March 27, 2016. http://www.3ders.org/articles/20160113-3d-printed-bone-implant-saved-virginia-womans-leg-from-amputation.html?utm_content=buffer2deed&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer.
- ‘Trusses’. Accessed March 27, 2016. http://www.steelconstruction.info/Trusses.