Harford surgeon uses 3D technology for knee replacement – ​​Baltimore Sun

A few years ago, when orthopedic surgeon John O’Hearn was replacing a patient’s knee, he would have groped through seven to 10 plateaus to create a rough rendering of the unique curves of the individual’s bones.

O’Hearn can now use a computer-generated block of plastic fabricated using 3D printing to match the patient’s specific anatomy for a highly customized knee implant.

The longtime surgeon, based at Susquehanna Orthopedic Associates office in Forest Hill, said he was the first physician in Harford County to use the new ConforMIS knee implant.

According to the company, he is among the first surgeons in the United States to use the iTotal knee replacement system, which recently patented its “image-to-implant” technology.

“What intrigued me was that they conform to the anatomy of the patient,” O’Hearn said of the ConforMIS system, explaining that other knee implants are “off the shelf.” , with a range of sizes trying to match everyone’s curvature. knee.

The implant produced by the iTotal system “will fit who it is for, no one else,” O’Hearn said.

For many in the medical community, the emergence of products like iTotal shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, although O’Hearn remains the only orthopedic surgeon in Harford to use it.

Additive printing, better known as 3D printing, continues to emerge in state-of-the-art ways for all sorts of uses, from toys made to the library’s 3D “Innovation Lab.” Abingdon to the emerging concept of 3D printed clothing.

ConforMIS, based in Bedford, Mass., released the iTotal system in 2012. It may have had a brief glitch, as a voluntary recall was issued on August 31 for certain patient-specific instrumentation serial numbers, with moisture reported on some of them. the instruments distributed between July 18 and August 28, according to a press release.

Despite all the setbacks, the world of 3D printing seems here to stay, and it’s likely to continue expanding into new corners of the medical world.

Richard Decker, executive director of the Havre de Grace-based Regional Additive Manufacturing Partnership of Maryland (RAMP-MD), praised O’Hearn’s initiative to venture into the 3D realm.

Decker spearheaded a major push by Harford lawmakers to make the county a leader in additive technology.

He noted that RAMP-MD, along with the Greater Baltimore Business Council, will host a conference on biomedical additive manufacturing in January.

Last year, lawmakers began working with Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center to create a regional 3D printing authority, hoping to capitalize on the army post’s resources.

The authority is branded RAMP-MD, Decker, a former ECBC director, said Tuesday.

“As a bilateral hip replacement patient following a serious car accident, I am delighted to [O’Hearn’s] success, and I look forward to the day when it will be common practice,” Decker said via email of the new knee replacement technology.

“I’m sure the unique benefits of ensuring a one-of-a-kind custom fit under sterile conditions using this ‘green’ technology will result in higher functional success rates, comfort and longevity,” said Decker. .

“Nuanced Evolution”

O’Hearn, for his part, did not hesitate to use the new technology.

The 68-year-old Havre de Grace resident, who has worked in the county since 1977, said he has been a leader in many ways over the years, such as endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.

“I’ve always been drawn to technology,” O’Hearn said, adding that it wasn’t for the technology, but rather to provide patients with a better experience.

For O’Hearn, it’s been a natural progression from the days when knee replacement surgery meant a patient spent a week in the hospital recovering.

The hospital stay was then reduced to perhaps three days, which O’Hearn says reduces infection from possible exposure to sick people.

“Infection, when it comes to joint replacement, is a disaster,” he said.

Preparation for recovery, he said, now begins before surgery and physical therapy begins immediately after. This, combined with a multimodal approach to pain management, allows patients to go home within hours of surgery.

O’Hearn performs the operation at his center on Thomas Street in Bel Air. He said new technologies such as the 3D-produced knee implant system have played a major role in facilitating patient recovery.

Actual implants in the ConforMIS system and other models are made of a metal alloy and polyethylene plastic.

Only the cutting block of the ConforMIS system is different; it is a plastic composite uniquely molded to each patient’s specific knee structure.

The operation takes about an hour, and the cost of the iTotal system is about the same as other knee replacement surgeries, he said.

Nonetheless, with the custom implant, “I think the patient gets what they pay for,” he said.

The Aegis: Top Stories

The Aegis: Top Stories

Days of the week

Daily highlights from Harford County’s number one source for local news.

The system saves around 15 to 20 minutes on each case by creating “a much more efficient process” that frees the surgeon from having to search for different instruments, he said.

“The shorter the time the joint is open, the lower the risk of infection,” he added.

O’Hearn said the new generation of medical products has dramatically reduced the wear and tear on a knee implant, from about 1 millimeter per year to about 1/10 of a millimeter.

With 3D printing, O’Hearn said the medical field is on the verge of a new frontier of biologics.

“They can make anything with 3D printers,” he said. “They do bone replacements; they can 3D print an ear.”

“Orthopaedics in general tends to be an early adopter of technology,” he added. “It seemed to me like a perfect application of that [3D] Technology.”

“It’s all about efficiency, so the patient essentially gets more for their money,” he said. “There are many implant providers who try to customize it to some extent, but they always offer a ready-to-use implant…This is the one, a true custom fit, from start to finish .”