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Growing implants the new frontier for orthopaedics

Radical new technology introduced to New Zealand by orthopaedic medical technology company Enztec is being used to ‘grow’ titanium surgical implants for complicated orthopaedic procedures such as pelvic reconstruction.

“The technology is enabling us to grow implants which are much more specific to an individual patient’s anatomy than traditional off the shelf implants,” says Enztec’s personalised implant specialist Paul Morrison.

“That makes it easier and faster for surgeons to fit an implant, and more likely that the patient will have a successful and lasting outcome.”

Christchurch orthopaedic surgeon Mr Paul Armour used Enztec’s personalised implant service recently for a 70 year old woman with significant hip issues.

“She was grossly disabled as a result of the dislocation of her old hip replacement, which had gone right through the bony pelvis into the pelvic area itself,” says Mr Armour.

“Having something that conformed to the patient’s anatomy made a potentially technically difficult procedure into something much easier.”

The patient was mobile again and had greatly increased her quality of life since the operation.

Mr Armour says he has observed similar implant development processes at the world-leading Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, and Enztec’s personalised implant service is at the same level. “What they are doing at Enztec is state of the art.”

Mr Morrison said the personalised implants are created using a technology called electron beam melting (EBM).

“It can produce solid implants to much finer detail than traditional methods like machining, and is extremely price competitive.”

“The EBM machine works by importing data from a 3D computer model and putting down successive layers of powdered material to build up the model. These layers are fused together using a computer controlled electron beam to create the titanium implant.”

“This technology has been around for a decade, but recent advances in computer technology have made it a powerful tool for developing implants,” says Mr Morrison.

Enztec partners with respected US-based company Medical Modelling to develop the implants, says Mr Morrison “We design and specify the implants with the surgeon, and then Medical Modelling use their EBM machine to produce the implant from our models.”

Enztec works with orthopaedic surgeons throughout New Zealand, providing the personalised implants service and surgical tools.

“Orthopaedic surgery is complex, challenging and not always predictable. Initiatives like our personalised implant service can make some contribution to making that process a little smoother.”