Bone Specialist Dr Kevin Yip Man Hing’s view on 3D printed orthopaedic implants.

3D Printing has seen increasing adoption in healthcare from manufacturing implants and prosthetics to creating tissues using bioprinting. Singapore’s focus on nurturing emerging technology and innovation has also encouraged enterprises to actively explore the use of on-demand manufacturing in the medical field.

3D printing in orthopaedics is one such use case wherein surgeons can implant made to order 3D printed replacements parts for hips, knees, ankles, parts of the spine and more.

We recently spoke to Dr Kevin Yip Man Hing of the Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic to gain a medical professional’s perspective on this trend. Here are the main excerpts from the interview –

Which area of Orthopaedics do you think can benefit the most from 3D Printing?

Dr Kevin Yip –

I would say it is the Orthopedic Implants and Replicas….

Freedom in the development of customised implants that are exclusive to the patient’s condition and bone structure is a unique value proposition. Also, the choice of the materials (titanium, steel, etc) they metal 3D printing that’s being made available offers a compelling application.

Such on-demand manufacturing ability is only possible with 3D printing.

More accurate bone replicas and anatomical models to do pre-surgery feasibility study can be extremely useful too. Having a 3D printed replica of fractured bones can give a better idea of the possible outcome of the operation. Surgeons will be able to gauge the success of a surgery attempt in a better way before actually opening a fractured joint of the patient.

What would be the key advantages in utilising 3D Printed parts and implants

Dr Kevin Yip –

So, one is the high degree of customization and rapid development that can provide a tremendous advantage over existing conventional methods. We can overcome the limitations of off-the-shelf standard implants.

The second, I believe is the ability to perform pre-surgery simulation. These two are in my opinion the biggest advantages for now.

Are there any major concerns that the medical fraternity has with this technology?

Dr Kevin Yip –

While customized implants are especially useful for applications that require complex reconstruction such as for facial bones (where sizes can be difficult to determine) it is lesser for long bones (e.g. hands and legs) where different standard sizes are readily available.

But then the time of producing the item and making it available in the operating theatre in an emergency will be an obvious challenge.

The other major concern is that of quality.  At times even for conventionally produced implants breakage is a concern.  So, when implants are made by printing additive layers that risk may get amplified if the quality is not of medical grade. Broken implants is a big concern

Sterilization of the item post-printing should be carefully looked at as well.

Where does the Singapore healthcare industry stand in the adoption of 3D Printed applications?

Dr Kevin Yip –

The adoption here is still at a very nascent stage.  But the potential of customized output at an affordable cost for complex joint replacements will drive future adoption. These otherwise can be expensive to manufacture on a one-off basis. The cost of customization with 3D printing is much lower

Parting Thoughts…

Digital transformation and industry 4.0 technologies will bring amazing advancements in diagnosis and treatment. We are already seeing improvements in rendering medical care through telemedicine and remote surgery. 3D Printing shows tremendous potential in the area of medical devices. I can only say, the best is yet to come.

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