How 3D Modelling and Printing Of Bones Impacts Your Orthopaedic Surgery

Ankle osteoarthritis is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the ankle joint. Traditional treatments like joint fusion can limit mobility. An alternative procedure called ankle distraction arthroplasty has been gaining some traction, but how well does it hold up in the long term? 

A recent study by Greenfield et al. (2019) investigated this very question. They conducted a survival analysis of ankle distraction arthroplasty for ankle osteoarthritis. Their findings suggest that this procedure may be a viable option for some patients. 

Key takeaways from the study: 

  • Ankle distraction arthroplasty showed promising results, with an 84% survival rate at 5 years. This is better than some previously reported outcomes. 
  • The study also identified factors that can influence the success of the procedure. Avascular necrosis of the talus (bone death) was associated with a lower survival rate. Additionally, sex may play a role, with the study suggesting potential gender differences in long-term outcomes. 

What this means for patients: 

Ankle distraction arthroplasty offers a potential option for preserving joint mobility in patients with ankle osteoarthritis. This study provides valuable data for surgeons and patients to consider when making treatment decisions. 

Important to note: 

  • This was a retrospective study, meaning researchers analyzed past data. More robust research designs are needed to confirm these findings. 
  • The study involved a relatively small group of patients. Larger studies are necessary to draw more definitive conclusions. 

Overall, this research suggests that ankle distraction arthroplasty may be a valuable tool for treating ankle osteoarthritis. However, more research is needed to solidify its place as a standard treatment option. 

ReferenceGreenfield, S., Matta, K. M., McCoy, T. H., Rozbruch, S. R., & Fragomen, A. (2019). Ankle distraction arthroplasty for ankle osteoarthritis: a survival analysis. Strategies in trauma and limb reconstruction, 14(2), 65.,and%2037%25%20within%205%20years


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional to discuss your individual treatment options.

Image Credit: Free 3D 

Article Authors: Gordon Slater| Tandose Sambo 

As medical technology advances, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that suitable techniques are being applied to diagnosis and treatment of a medical condition. Orthopaedic conditions often require a thorough understanding of the internal condition of a patient, and then the treatment can be developed and implemented. 

3D printing technology and digital models of bones have become very important to the medical industry. They ensure that students in the medical profession are able to have better training available to them in their early careers, and that actual patient treatments are optimised. With a better understanding of patient conditions, the medical profession can transition to more customised patient care. While not all patient diagnoses will be extreme, those medical cases that are anomalous will be better treated. 

Better Surgical Planning 

The key to a successful patient treatment is via the right strategy/plan. 3-D modelling ensures that Orthopaedic specialists have a more accurate view of the patient’s current condition, and they can then identify the path forward. Surgical planning can save millions of dollars of operational re-work. Via 3D printing and digital modelling, it is possible for the integration of various materials into a patient’s treatment. Where necessary, if an implant is necessary for the patient to be treated, the integration of skill sets such as tissue engineering and biomedicine into the solution pool, will ensure that the right materials are prepared, that the patient’s body will accept. 

The revolution of orthopaedic surgery will benefit from the integration of all these elements. As the precision of surgical procedures is increased, and medical devices and implants become smarter, the quality of healthcare will increase.  

3-D Printing

3-D printing utilizes a sophisticated computer-aided design (CAD) digital model of an object to create its physical equivalent. An object is printed layer by layer until the object itself is formed. Described as an additive process, the 3-D printing process applies layering technologies in order to create the final shape. Operating much like an inkjet printer, targeted layers made of the desired material are generated. 

3-D Printing in Orthopaedics

Within the orthopaedic realm, there are several items that are manufactured by 3-D printing technology. These can include joint implants, and even the surgical instruments that are utilized during procedures. 

Some surgeons utilize the 3-D printing technologies prior to the surgical process, in order to visualize the procedure before they actually perform on the patients. If some fractures or deformities are difficult to process prior to the actual surgery, a model of the internal state of the sites will be helpful to the medical team. The models will act as great guides in the operating room. 


The process of manufacturing implants has to undergo some regulatory hurdles, but in the process of the evolution of the field, surgical instruments are well on their way to be rapidly and readily available. 

4-D Printing

3-D printing as a technology is currently evolving. Models manufactured by this technology are currently rigid, with limited possibilities of changing the shape and size of the object once it’s been manufactured. Since living beings are growing and evolving, during the manufacturing process, there is also the desire for parts to be developed which can grow and change shape with time. 4-D technology has the means to facilitate this desire. 

Smart materials are currently developed that have the property to be flexible and to change shape and size with time. Since orthopaedic technologies will require parts such as artificial bones that can adapt and grow in individuals such as children. 4-D technology facilitates this requirement. The parts of the smart material have the ability to self-assemble and change shape with time. Influenced by parameters such as temperature/humidity/pressure the form will adapt to the internal environment of the patient. 

In summary, since 3-D printing generates static output, 4-D technology is an upgrade that will be able to adapt to their environment. Doctors can now take advantage of the material properties of the smart material, in order to treat any ailments. During the development process, a model is created that changes shape and properties with temperature. Once printed, the object will then be able to adjust itself with time. The printing of Orthopaedic parts is now optimized, and more suited to the genetic match of the individual. 

As technology advances, accurate replicas of patient parts that adapt to the body will be more and more possible. With advanced technologies, you can look forward to endless possibilities in terms of your health care. 

Article Reference: MDPI : Different Techniques of Creating Bone Digital 3D Models from Natural Specimens

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

Leave a comment

Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

Copyright © 2023