Vietnam’s First 3D Printed Pelvis and Femur Implants Set New Standard in Bone Cancer Treatment

Published on January 30, 2024 by Isaac B.

Surgeons at the Vinmec General Hospital in Vietnam achieved a medical milestone when they turned to advanced 3D printing. How so? By making 3D printed artificial bones that were able to replace the pelvis and part of the femur of a patient during surgery. While the practice of 3D printing bones is not new, this groundbreaking procedure marks a global first. It was explicitly designed to address the challenges posed by an exceptionally rare form of cancer known as metastatic bone cancer, a condition notorious for its typically low survival rate.

This breakthrough represents a significant leap in the medical field, showcasing the capabilities of 3D printing in addressing life-threatening conditions. The rarity and complexity of metastatic bone cancer prompted the medical and engineering teams at Vinmec General Hospital to collaborate closely in developing an innovative solution, as they were tasked with treating 63-year-old patient Le Dinh Thuan.

Professor Dr. Tran Trung Dung, the Director of Vinmec Orthopedics Center, explains the treatment process using 3D printed implant models.

Patient-Specific Innovation: Crafting Thuan’s Implant

In the case of Mr. Thuan, cancer had infiltrated his hip joint, spreading to his joint capsules, pelvis, and femur. Traditionally, treatments for such cases often involved drastic measures, including removing the affected side of the pelvis, resulting in severe disability with little to no increase in survival rate post-surgery. Thuan’s refusal of this conventional procedure underscored the need for an alternative, less invasive solution, which directed the team to 3D printing.

Recognizing the situation’s urgency and the limitations of traditional methods, the medical team at Vinmec General Hospital explored other solutions before turning to 3D printing to produce artificial bone implants. Because of Thuan’s limited time, they tested nearly 100 prototypes for two weeks to perfect the design of his implant.

The artificial bone, replacing the removed pelvis and femur sections, features a unique design crafted from biocompatible medical titanium alloy. Its hollow honeycomb structure not only mimics the original pelvis’s morphology, but is also remarkably lightweight for its material, occupying less than half the volume of natural bone. Despite being hollow, the implant is robust, reportedly withstanding 10 times the force of real bone while maintaining similar elasticity and support. Additionally, the surface in contact with the healthy bone encourages the growth of bone cells to enhance stability post-surgery, as it has been roughened with micro-holes.

These 3D printed implants present an additional benefit by substantially minimizing the recovery period. In Mr. Thuan’s case, he regained mobility within a mere 10 days post-surgery, representing a 65% reduction in the expected recovery time of the traditional procedure. This milestone reaches beyond Mr. Thuan, potentially unlocking new treatment avenues for bone cancer patients, as more hospitals may embrace 3D printed artificial bone in light of this breakthrough.

Patient Le Dinh Thuan posing with Vinmec medical team after his discharge from the hospital.

What do you think of Vinmec General Hospital’s use of 3D printed pelvis and femur implants in bone cancer treatment? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

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