Thanks to a 3D Printed Implant, “T” Returns to Action
Innovative surgery at Sheba allows a sergeant in the paratroopers to walk pain-free again
One year and four months ago, “T,” a sergeant in the IDF paratroopers unit, was injured in a training accident when another soldier fired a bullet that hit his foot. Recently, he was discharged from both the military and Sheba Medical Center, with a new custom-made implant in his leg that will enable his injured leg to regain strength and move with less pain.
The gunshot to T’s foot caused an open fracture in his heel bone and another foot bone. Soon after, an infection developed in the area of the wound and T had to undergo surgery to clean it out. A filler was inserted, and the doctors then moved on to the next procedure.
In the second surgery, Sheba’s doctors inserted a 3D-printed design of the implant, which resembles a cage, made from titanium. Bone taken from the pelvis and from a bone bank is then implanted, where it can grow to become a part of the body.
“Printing on a titanium mesh 3D printer allows us to simulate the missing structure, which is designed to work for the creation of a new leg,” explains Dr. Nathan Brook, orthopedic surgeon and Deputy Director of Sheba Orthopedic Alignment.
This type of custom-designed 3D-printed implant prevents foot deformity and alleviates pain. It has been used in Israel for cancerous tumors, but not in the case of wounds – and not in the foot, until today.
“The difference between a custom-made implant and existing implants is like the difference between a shoe that fits and one that doesn’t. Patients receive a more suitable, much better result,” says Dr. Brook.
As Dr. Dina Orkin, Director of Anesthesiology, Sheba Surgery Division, explains, “The 3D world is gaining momentum in the field of personalized medicine, allowing optimal results for a specific patient. We invest heavily in 3D, which allows us to help patients who have not yet had good solutions to their situation, as in this case.”
T’s parents share that prior to this revolutionary implant procedure, T could only walk for fifteen minutes or a half-hour, and he would get too tired to continue. Now, as a result of using the implant, they view his unlimited and painless mobility as an attainable goal for the future.