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16 May 2014, 09:53
A woman in Southampton's become the first in the world to get a new hip made on a 3D printer and fitted using her stem cells.
The titanium metal implant was custom-made for Meryl Richards, 71, using precise measurements taken from detailed body scans.
Surgeons at Southampton General Hospital have hailed the procedure as a "game-changer" for complex orthopaedic procedures.
Mrs Richards had six previous hip replacements which left her pelvis so weak that her leg had punched a hole through the bone.
It meant one leg was two inches shorter than the other and she was increasingly disabled by the pain.
Speaking to Sky News she said that without the technique she would soon have been in a wheelchair.
"For years now I've walked with crutches or stick," she said.
"Hopefully this will give me movement and mobility again. It's absolutely fantastic."
Mrs Richards had the pioneering operation at Southampton General Hospital.
Surgeons sent CT body scans of her pelvis to the Belgian company Mobelife.
Using computer-aided design and a 3D printer they created a tailor-made socket for the new hip joint.
The shape was built in thin layers from titanium powder that was spot-welded together with a high-temperature laser beam.
Mr Douglas Dunlop, the consultant surgeon who carried out the operation, said: "The benefits to the patient through this pioneering procedure are numerous.
"The titanium used to make the hip is more durable and has been printed to match the patient's exact measurements - this should improve the fit."
He said the custom-made implant also speeds up the operation and is likely to reduce the risk of a serious joint infection.
To increase the chances of success scientists at Southampton University developed a way of using Mrs Richards' bone marrow stem cells as a "glue" to hold the implant securely in place.
Professor Richard Oreffo said cells are growing new bone around the implant, adding: "That will allow the structure to be much stronger and for Meryl we hope it will be the last time she comes back to the operating room."