According to a local news report, an 84-year-old man in China recently became the first patient in the world to receive a 3D-printed tantalum knee joint implant. The procedure took place in a hospital in Chongqing, China.
Knee surgery is a common operation in China and as much as 62% of people in their fifties have some symptoms of arthritis. Furthermore, between 2.2% and 3.5% of the Chinese population report suffering from knee osteoarthritis.
In this specific operation, an 84-year-old Chinese male patient was fitted with a 3D-printed knee joint made from tantalum. The procedure involved filling a large bone defect with the 3D-printed implant. In this Chinese hospital alone, doctors perform around 400 knee replacement surgeries per year.
Traditionally, knee replacement procedures have involved the use of cement implants or bone grafts, both of which can cause problems that affect the lifespan and stability of the implant. Now 3D-printing is being used to create a patient-specific implant, and tantalum—a hard metal that is less commonly used than titanium—was used to fabricate the medical device.
According to the surgeons involved, the 3D-printed tantalum implant is more compact and more stable than a titanium implant would have been; factors that simplified the surgical procedure and reduced the risk of post-surgical complications. Tantalum also offers better biocompatibility and improved bone ingrowth, meaning the patient can hopefully look forward to better freedom of movement and a longer life for his new knee.