Revolutionising knee surgery: introducing 3D printed knee arthroplasty

Written by: Mr Sujith Konan
Edited by: Alex Rolandi

Advances in 3D printing technology could revolutionise the future of knee surgery, thanks to a breakthrough made this year by scientists in the US. The procedure entails combining CT imaging, in order to make an accurate image of a patient’s knee, with state-of-the-art modelling software and 3D printing technology in order to create a bespoke prosthetic implant tailored to each patient’s specific needs.

What does 3D printing mean for the future of knee surgery?

Knee replacement surgery costs the NHS millions of pounds every year. Any number of complications may arise from knee replacement surgery, such as infections, blood loss, pain, instability, and even deep vein thrombosis. Added to this, there remains a group of patients not fully satisfied after knee replacement surgery. The idea of using a 3D printer to create the knee implant allows for a more accurate match of the patient’s bone anatomy, which would fit them better, restore their biomechanics and hopefully allow for a more satisfactory recovery and outcome. This would then translate to better function and return to an active lifestyle.


How would it work?

The menisici and articular cartilage act as a crucial part of the structure of the knee. Over time they have the tendency to wear down, especially in people who play a lot of sport. A worn-down cartilage can cause trouble with activity and eventually leads to arthritis. Restoring the knee back to the prearthritic state involves recreating the patient's original anatomy and biomechanics. 3D printing may provide one possible solution here. By using CT scans, images of the patient’s knee are taken from different angles, producing a cross-sectioned image of the patient’s knee. Then, by using the latest modelling software, this image is prepared for 3D printing. The result is an implant that matches the planned model. If implanted correctly this should then restore the knee joint to the correct alignment.

By Mr Sujith Konan
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Sujith Konan is a leading Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon based in London who specialises in hip and knee surgery. His NHS practice is in University College Hospital, London. He practices at the London Clinic, the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth and other prominent institutions in the area.

Mr Konan has published extensively in orthopaedic journals and textbooks (100+ articles) and has also presented widely on several clinical and research topics in national and international meetings (100+ presentations), and he currently serves as an Honorary Associate Professor at UCL.

His talents have been recognised through the attainment of numerous awards from international & national organisations such as the Rothman-Ranawat Society, the British Orthopaedic Association and the British Hip Society.

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