Groundbreaking hip surgery could improve quality of life for patients

Orthopedic surgeons at Southampton General Hospital in Southampton, England, have performed the first hip surgery using a 3-D hip printed with titanium and a graft with bone stem cells. This is the first surgery of its kind and a breakthrough for orthopedic software. 

How they did it 
The procedure was accomplished by taking a 3-D printout modeled after the patient's CT scan and designed with computer-aided design and manufacturing technology. The hip was custom-made for this particular patient, designed to fit her body exactly. The implant has given the patient a new socket into which the ball of the femur will go, and in addition to the implant, stem cells harvested from the patient's bone marrow were placed around the implant. The purpose of the stem cells is to encourage regeneration of the bone around the implant. 

According to Douglas Dunlop, M.D., consultant orthopedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, this surgery is notable for a number of reasons. One of the benefits of this new procedure is that the replacement hip is fitted to suit the individual patient, making the need for follow-up surgeries due to a mismatch less likely. This is great news for the subject of the surgery, Meryl Richards of Hampshire, who has had six surgeries since injuring her hip in a car accident in 1977. She is hopeful that this surgery will be her last.  

Using stem cell technology to fuel progress in orthopedics 
The surgery has been a decade in the making, and the use of stem cells to help the patient grow back bone lost due to injury could be vital to improving patients' prospects for recovery. The bone graft is built from a bone scaffold, which allows blood to flow through it. Once the bone regenerates, it will offer support to the hip implant. 

"The bone graft material that has been used has excellent biocompatibility and strength and will fill the defect behind the bone well, fusing it all together," Dunlop said.

According to Professor Richard Oreffo, B.Sc, who also worked on the project, bone loss and fracture are common at the cite of an area that has deteriorated due to disease or damage.  

"Growing bone at the point of injury alongside a hip implant that has been designed to the exact fit of the patient is exciting and offers real opportunities for improved recovery and quality of life," Oreffo noted.