YOUR HEALTH: Build your own knee

ATLANTA –Knee surgery may never be the same again.

It's now becoming more common to build your own knee.

More than 600,000 knee replacement surgeries are done in the United States every year.

As baby boomers continue to age, some say that figure will grow to one million within the next decade.

It's giving patients like 48-year old Amanda Fair-Evans a new lease on life.

"I couldn't even get out of the car and I was like, what is this?" Fair-Evans recalled.

The pain in her left knee was unbearable. She tried medication and cortisone shots and finally begged her doctor for surgery.

"I have no quality of life. I have grandkids and I want to play with my grandkids," she remembered.

She pleaded with doctors:  "Please give me a new knee."

Emory orthopedic surgeon Mathew Pombo felt Amanda would be a great candidate for a personalized replacement knee.

A standing C-T scan of a patient's leg captures the alignment, followed by a three dimensional printing process.

"We can input components into the computer and print off a specific femur and a specific tibia that fits the bone perfectly," said Dr. Pombo.

It takes about six weeks for a medical company to create the custom knee.

During surgery, doctors remove the damaged joint.    Then using individually designed tools, surgeons insert the new joint and cement it in.

"It's basically like putting a train on perfectly aligned train tracks. It should wear better," says Dr. Pombo.

It worked so well, five months later, Amanda had her other knee replaced.   Now she's back to doing the things she loves to do.

"Taking long walks, playing with my grandkids and dancing," she said.  "I haven't danced in a long time."

3D KNEES: Originally, knee replacements used standardized replica components. Although there are variations in size, it`s highly unlikely that a standard knee component will ever be a `perfect fit`. Neither can a standardized knee component ever match the natural irregularities found within the human body. But now there is a 3D printed option. The knee is built within the 3D printing box, using layers of material, laid down under the control of a computer system. Materials vary, but it`s possible to use metals (such as titanium) and plastics; both of which are highly suited for medical use. With this practice, knees are personalized for patients. Doctors will take a CT scan of a patient`s leg to capture the alignment, and after the new knee is built, doctors will remove the damaged knee joint and replace it with the new, customized one. (Source: http://www.bennettorthosportsmed.com/replacement-knee-surgery-3d-printingscience-fiction-remarkable-reality/)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.