UNDATED (WJRT) -
(07/14/14) - 3D printers are now used to make all kinds of things, including firearms and replacement body parts.
In the past 10 years, the number of total knee replacements in the U.S. has doubled - and many of those patients are much younger than ever before. Replacement knees typically come off the shelf in several sizes, but they don't always fit right. New technology is changing that.
A few months ago, retired pipe fitter Don Plum could hardly stand up because his knees ached. Now, after getting his new '3D knees,' he walks and even runs - pain-free.
Plum had knee replacement surgery done on both knees at the same time, after a cat scan made a 3D image of his knees. A 3D printer made two new knees that were a precise fit.
Orthopedic surgeon Richard Buch says the 3D knees offer a lot of advantages over typical replacement knees, which come in several sizes but seldom fit a patient exactly, and can be a source of recurring pain after surgery.
"This matches their anatomy and then the bone that you're taking off is less than it was with a standard knee," he said.
Other advantages to the 3D knee include a shorter hospital stay, quicker recovery time, less pain and more movement.
Plum who says thanks to his 3D knees, he can do anything he wants.
3D knee replacement is covered by most insurance companies. Projections are that by 2030, three to four million knee replacement surgeries will be done every year in the U.S.