Bedford Company Using 3D Printer To Make Customized Knee Implants

By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – “We see a lot of knee injuries in here,” says Jeff Dosdall, a personal trainer and co-owner of Bodyscapes in Wellesley. “They’ve got arthritis. They’ve got overuse injuries, and the knees start to wear out on you.” Even for some people in their 30s and 40s, and a lot of folks end up having surgery.

Knee replacement is the most common joint replacement worldwide. Providing huge relief, most of the time.

Dr. Philipp Lang, CEO and co-founder of ConforMIS, a medical device company in Bedford, says about a quarter of patients aren’t happy with their results. “They have pain, limited range of motion, the knee doesn’t feel natural,” says Dr. Lang.

Knee replacement X-ray. (WBZ-TV)

Knee replacement X-ray. (WBZ-TV)

So ConforMIS is changing that. It’s the only company in the world that is making knee replacement implants that are completely tailored to each individual patient.

Using CT imaging, special computer software, and 3D printer technology, scientists produce a unique knee implant and customized surgical instruments, designed for one patient and only that patient.

“This fits exactly to your patient,” explains Dr. Lang. “It brings back your individual knee, the shape of your knee, the curvature of your knee and should move like a normal knee.”

No two knees are the same and off the shelf implants come in a limited number of sizes. A bad fit, says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Czarnecki of Excel Orthopedics in Woburn, can cause more bleeding and swelling. “I’ve seen more with the ConforMIS knee that’s there’s a quicker return to range of motion for most patients,” says Dr. Czarnecki. “There doesn’t tend to be as much swelling and not as much pain in the hospital because this is matched to their bone.”

Mary Cowles of Westminster had a traditional knee replacement back in 2001 and a ConforMIS implant in her other knee just three months ago. She says there’s no comparison. “Time-wise in the hospital, less time,” Cowles says. “Physical therapy was much easier. I got movement so much faster. If I didn’t see the scar on it, I would assume it was my normal knee.”

The ConforMIS implants are covered by insurance and generally aren’t more expensive. The company says they plan to make other joints, like shoulders and hips. And they’re the first company to receive FDA approval for 3D printing in metal.

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