New techniques developed to treat bone deformity using 3D printers

07 October 2016

Fractures are common in the UK. While most heal without problems in a significant number of cases, they lead to patients experiencing multiple operations, enduring long recovery times, and often never fully repair.

One consequence from fractures not healing correctly is deformity. Techniques are available that deal with bone deformity surgically, but they often lack precision, are invasive and can also compromise the circulation to the bone, meaning that correction is inadequate, or does not heal.

However, new research undertaken by the Institute of Medical Science (IMS) at Canterbury Christ Church University has led to the development of a new technique to repair bone deformity bone fractures. The new approach has the potential to speed up the patient’s recovery, reduce the chance of multiple operations and could save the NHS thousands of pounds.

Currently, patients treated on the NHS for severe bone fractures could spend hours in surgery, uncertain whether the bone will heal correctly and whether or not the injury will become infected, with some extreme cases leading to amputation.

Professor Anan Shetty, Director of Stem Cell Research within the IMS, has developed a technique that uses 3D printing to enhance the success of such challenging cases. His technique allows much of the procedure to be carried out prior to the operation, saving hours in the operating theatre and excessive blood loss.

Professor Shetty starts the process by taking computerised tomography (CT) scans of the fracture from various angles, creating a virtual model of the deformed bone. A 3D model of the bone is then printed in order for surgeons to prepare an accurate steel plate, which will be fitted to the patient’s bone to repair the fracture. Using a precise model in preparation ensures that the plate perfectly fits with the fracture and so the bone is perfectly aligned at the end of surgery, unlike current procedures which rely on two dimensional images during surgery with visual estimates of correction.

As a further enhancement, stem cells taken from the patient’s bone marrow, which are mixed with collagen to form a gel paste, and injected into the bone to enhance, and speed-up, the healing process.

Professor Shetty, said: “Our bodies are high precision living structures. Successful treatments need to replicate high precision procedures combined with a biologically sensitive approach.”

Professor Shetty has treated several complex patients’ injuries both privately and on the NHS, with an 85% and above success rate.

The IMS opened in January this year with the aim of offering research, innovation and postgraduate medical education opportunities for both UK and international clinicians.

The stem cell research and advanced bioengineering laboratory, SCRABEL, that Professor Shetty oversees, has been purpose commissioned to ensure the IMS is at the forefront of research and studies in biomedical engineering. It is equipped with the technology needed to support the latest innovations in stem cell culturing, bioengineering, computing and 3D printing

Peter Milburn, Director of the Institute of Medical Sciences at Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “The work of Professor Anan Shetty and colleagues in the research facility could lead to revolutionary changes and innovation in healthcare provision and delivery. The potential impact of this innovation alone could save valuable NHS resources that could be diverted to other front line services and result in a significant improvement in patient quality of life outcomes and future mobility’.

Notes to Editor

The Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) is based at the Medway campus of Canterbury Christ Church University and represents a centre of excellence for postgraduate medical education and research.

This includes specialised programmes in MCh Surgery (Otorhinolarngology), MCh Surgery (Orthopaedics and Regenerative Medicine), and MCh Surgery (Urology), and supports ground breaking research in the use stem cell technology within clinical practice.

The Institute houses a fully-equipped clinical Simulation Suite enabling clinicians to develop skill and expertise using specialised equipment

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 95% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2013/14 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 11/11/2019 17:03:00