As the general population ages, hundreds of people get their hips replaced every day. Most of the replacement hips being used today are made out of titanium and ceramic. But, for a while, replacement hips were using a controversial metal on metal design that is now a cause for concern, because of higher failure rates.
At the same time, there are classes of patients that because of their physiology have up until now not been suitable candidates for hip replacement surgery. However, now The Mayo Clinic is reporting that it has successfully used a 3D printer to create a custom hip for a patient that otherwise would have had to live a life of increasingly excruciating pain.
That advance may open the door to a much broader application of 3D printing in hip replacement. Not only could 3D printing reduce the cost of creating artificial hips, it may allow healthcare providers to build hips that better fit the physical dimensions of any specific individual. In theory, that would make the recovery time after the artificial hip is implanted less painful.
It’s too early to say how broadly 3D printer technology can be applied with hip replacement surgery or for that matter any other joint. What is clear is that 3D printers will play an increasingly important role in not only prosthetics, but also the eventual replacement of a wide variety of internal organs.