Melbourne biotech collaboration saves man’s leg with world-first 3D printed implant

A collaboration involving St Vincent’s Hospital, the CSIRO and implant manufacturer Anatomics saw a world-leading procedure undertaken to 3D print a heelbone and save a 71-year-old man’s leg.

The Herald Sun reports that the surgery took place on July, with a tumour removed from Len Chandler’s right calcaneus.

The bone’s complicated structure and interactions with other bones mean it is hard to replace, and amputation below the knee for would generally be required for such a cancer.

Chandler was referred to Professor Peter Choong of St Vincent’s.

“Science advances have allowed us to consider 3D printing of bones and we were able to get information from Len’s foot and use that to tell the computers precisely how big his foot is, and reproduce that using the new 3D technology,” Choong told the Herald Sun.

“Going from the possibility of an amputation to where you preserve the limb on account of one (replacement) bone is rewarding if you can achieve it.”

A scan of Chandler’s left heel was used by implant specialist Anatomics to create a mirror image design for the right calcaneus, which was printed in titanium by CSIRO’s Arcam electron beam melting machine, reports AP.

He is predicted to be able to walk without crutches by Christmas.

The procedure was claimed by Anatomics’ CEO Andrew Batty as a world-first, as well as an example of his city’s biotechnology firms to collaborate.

Earlier this year, Anatomics produced a whole skull implant which was successfully transplanted into a Dutch woman’s head, saving her life. For more, click here.

Image: Tony Gough