3D Printer Makes New Hip for Pioneering Norfolk Operation

A pioneering new hip replacement created by a 3D printer has been carried out at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, home of one of the original hip operations, back in 1951.

It was one of the first few operations carried out in this country using a 3D printer and the first in the East of England.

Orthopaedic consultant John Nolan fitted the tailor made replacement into a 68 year old Norfolk woman with rheumatoid arthritis just over a year after the first innovative operation was carried out in Southampton. Previously housebound the patient now says “He has given me my life back.”

Mr Nolan, who is currently President of the British Hip Society, explained that he turned to “the technique of the future” because his patient had both hips replaced 25 years ago but her right hip had disintegrated and the bone had started dissolving. Metal pins had been put in but they were not going to last.

Scans showed it would be impossible to redo her hips. “There was no way to do a reconstruction there really wasn’t any other way of rebuilding her socket. She had lost a staggering amount of bone.”
So, the patient’s pelvis was scanned and 3D images of her hips were sent to a company in Belgium. Then, using a 3D printer the company created a custom made implant out of trabecular metal.

The socket is printed with predetermined screw holes and it is built up in layers to make the perfect shape and then fused together.
Once created it was first tried in a plastic mockup of the patient’s pelvis and fitted perfectly.

Mr Nolan carried out the ground breaking operation and is now planning a second one.

As the implant is porous her bone will grow into it and bond onto the metal. This way the new hip should hopefully last her lifetime.
The patient explained that she had dislocated her hip twice in three months then twice in three days in January and couldn’t put weight on it. She became housebound, unable to go out or get in the car in case it dislocated again.

“The last couple of years I’ve gone from bedroom to living room and sat in a chair and not gone anywhere. Since January I haven’t even been able to get in the car because of the leg brace.”

Her husband said that he was “very pleased” and when Mr Nolan explained the procedure beforehand it was easy to understand.
“He’s been brilliant,” said the patient of her surgeon. “He has given me my life back and he has made me more independent. I can already walk to the shower and go out.”

The patient, who spoke after the operation, said she had previously been on strong pain killers for four years and she now hoped she could do more for herself again.

“I am going to take each week as it comes but I’m looking forward to taking a holiday.”

The NNUH is the home of Ken McKee a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who carried out his first primary hip replacement in 1951.
In the past 20 years Mr Nolan has carried out 5,000 new hip operations and 700 revisions when they need replacing for various reasons in later years.

Photos show John Nolan, x rays showing the implant in place and the specially created implant in the plastic mock up of the patients pelvis

Wednesday 19th of August 2015 11:00:03 AM