Leon E. Popovitz, MD
Top-Rated Orthopedic Surgeon
Specializing in Arthroscopic Surgery of the Shoulder & Knee.
For appointments 212.759.4553

The New York Bone Blog

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How Can 3D Printing Benefit Orthopedics?

If you haven’t already heard a lot about how 3D printing is changing the medical world, you soon will. Over the past 5 years, scientists have been developing prostheses with 3D printers and implanting them during joint replacements in medical facilities worldwide.

Why are 3D printed prosthetics so revolutionary? While joint replacement and reparation surgeries have become extremely sophisticated and successful, traditional prosthetics have a relatively short life span. Orthopedists hesitate to perform joint replacements on younger individuals because prosthetics will wear down in around 10 to 20 years, and additional joint replacement surgeries are much riskier. 3D printed prosthetics are made of much more durable material that includes actual human cells, so that the body incorporates them more naturally.

Printing a prosthetic is also a very easy process. Using a CT scan of the joint, a computer can customize the shape to exactly fit each patient.

It turns out that scientists can not only 3D print much more durable titanium prosthetics, but are successfully printing actual fabricated bone. So far, 3D printed bone has survived and thrived when implanted into animals. How is this possible? The printer uses a gel cartridge that contains both human cells and biodegradable plastics. These plastic particles are printed like a scaffold that holds the organic cells together as they are prompted to grow. The plastic particles eventually degrade, leaving fabricated, organic tissues behind. While the process takes time, the finished prosthetic lasts much longer because the body treats the new implant as real bone.

In just a few years, 3D printing can help make the results of joint replacements and repairs even more outstanding.

Dr. Leon Popovitz and Dr. Michael Mizhiritsky, along with their team of best-in-class orthopedic physicians, are known for their exemplary orthopedic surgical skill and best-rated physical medicine and rehabilitation program. This, along with their top in-office physical therapy and long-term sports rehabilitation processes, leads to athletes of all levels returning to their top physical potential. Contact us today to schedule a consult!

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