3D printing allows surgeons to use MRI or CT scans to create implants in one piece using porous titanium, rather than fitting a number of premade metal components together like a jigsaw to meet patients’ exact requirements.

Alongside the physical production of the implant, the technology also enables doctors to plan surgery more thoroughly and even create models to rehearse the procedure in advance.

Technology enables doctors to plan surgery more thoroughly and even create models to rehearse the procedure in advance.

“We know wound open time is related to infection rate, so any thinking and planning is best done at the computer rather than ‘on the hoof’ in theatre,” explains Dr Dunlop, Leading Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust.

“The implant has the additional benefit that, as it is premade and inserted in one go, it can easily be coated in growth promoters, such as the patient’s own stem cells, to kick start the vital bond that is required between it and the host bone,” concludes Dunlop.

All in all, 3D printing could help speed up recovery times, reduce risks and improve a patient’s quality of life.