The medical industry is taking advantage of 3D printing technology. One area that it's benefiting is joint replacement.
Dr. Gregory Ballard at Centerpoint Orthopedics suggests joint replacement surgery to his patients once all of the less invasive options are exhausted. Those treatments include anti-inflammatory meds, injections or physical therapy.
Christy Delgado went to Dr. Ballard for 3D knee implants in both knees after having trouble about six years ago.
"I have two grandchildren and they were 3 and 5 at the time of surgery. I couldn’t do anything with them," Delgado said.
Cortisone injections helped, but only for a little while.
"They had gotten worse. I got bow legged. Extremely painful to walk. There (was) a lot of arthritis on both of them," she said.
Dr. Ballard says there is a major advantage to a 3D joint implant rather than the “off the shelf” model.
"If you can match the patient's original anatomy, mainly shape and contour, generally we feel that patient will do better both from a pain standpoint and a functional standpoint," he said.
To start the process, a technician takes a CT scan of the patient's joint. From there, they can develop a 3D model and utilize 3D printing. The process takes six weeks.
Ballard says, "We're finding that patients are recovering quicker."
The summer following her surgery, Delgado was able to walk around the zoo with her grandkids all day.
"I was missing out and told Dr. Ballard he gave me my life back," she said.
Recovery does take time. Delgado, a pharmacy technician, ended up taking 10 weeks off work to get both knees done at the same time. It's a time she admits was excruciating, but worth it.
"They're a lot more active now, so we can ride bikes together and grandma can keep up now."
The cost of a 3D replacement is the same from an insurance standpoint. Some people may have severe deformity and may not be candidates for this type of technology.
Jane Monreal can be reached at JANE.MONREAL@KSHB.com.