European first: Maria Middelares General Hospital places 3D-printed implant in ankle

Maria Middelares is the first hospital in Europe to place a 3D printed implant in an ankle. By using a tailor-made implant from trabecular metal, the void created by removing the previously placed ankle prosthetic is filled to a maximum. This increases the chance of bone fusion, resulting in better healing.

On Thursday 21 February, a 3D printed implant was placed in an ankle for the first time by Dr Tom Lootens. The patient’s previously placed ankle prosthetic needed to be removed because it had loosened. To retain the same leg length, the resulting space needed to be filled by an implant of the same height.

Opting for a 3D implant

Previously, standard implants of fixed sizes were used for these procedures. Prosthetic fixation was often inadequate, resulting in a longer healing process and reducing the chance of success.

This time, a tailored 3D implant of trabecular metal and the accompanying plate were printed based on CT images. This accepted trabecular metal is regularly used for the reconstruction of lost bone, e.g. in the hip or knee. It is characterised by good bone ingrowth and is now being applied for the first time in an ankle. Using computer analysis, a specific angle is also incorporated in the implant to guarantee a better heel to toe roll at the height of the ankle and the foot. All of this provides the prosthetic with a better chance of healing.