Health Team

3D technology tailors knee replacement surgeries to individual patients

Posted November 6, 2015 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 9, 2015 1:05 p.m. EST

Painful wear and tear on the knees often leads to knee replacement surgery. Standard implants come in different sizes, much like a pair of shoes, but a new 3D approach offers implants tailored to a patient's specific anatomy.

The new option, offered by a Massachusetts company called Conformis, begins with CT imaging from the hip through the knee and ankle.

Special software converts the data into a 3D model of the patient's unique bone structure.

It was the best option for Milton Rodriguez, 50, who had his knee replaced after 20 years of pain and two arthroscopic surgeries.

Rodriguez's doctor referred him to WakeMed orthopedic surgeon Dr. Curt Hanson, who offers the Conformis option.

"This knee replacement is designed specifically to fit the patient's anatomy and replicate more accurately their normally knee function," Hanson said.

The artificial joints are created to mimic natural joints, and they are printed using 3D technology. They guide the surgeon with precise drilling points and thin bone cuts to fit the new joints.

"The objective advantage is that you get millimeter accuracy in the size of the implant," Hanson said.

With all of the work done ahead of time, the surgery moves more quickly, too.

"Which often means less blood loss, less risk of complications and potentially less pain," Hanson said.

Hanson told Rodriguez full recovery would take three months, but Rodriguez said he already feels like he could toss his crutches.

"I think by Thanksgiving I'm going to be completely ready," he said.

Hanson is the only orthopedic surgeon in the Triangle area trained to offer the Conformis implants.