Build Your Own 3D Knee


ATLANTA. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 600,000 knee replacement surgeries are done in the United States every year, and as baby boomers continue to age, some say that figure will grow to one million within the next decade. More patients are choosing an option that allows doctors to build their patient’s knees.

Less than a year ago, climbing up a flight of stairs would have been impossible for Amanda Fair-Evans, 48.

Fair-Evans told Ivanhoe, “I couldn’t even get out of the car and I was like, what is this?”

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

Fair-Evans said, “I have no quality of life. I have grandkids and I want to play with my grandkids. Please give me a new knee.”

Mathew Pombo, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta, Georgia, felt Fair-Evans would be a great candidate for a personalized replacement knee.

A standing CT 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,” explained 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.

Dr. Pombo said, “It’s basically like putting a train on perfectly aligned train tracks. It should wear better.”

Five months later, Fair-Evans had her other knee replaced. Now she’s back to doing the things she loves to do.

Fair-Evans said she loves “Taking long walks, playing with my grandkids and dancing. I haven’t danced in a long time.”

Dr. Pombo said there is a faster recovery, less blood loss and easier range of motion of patients having the personalized 3D knee surgery.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.




REPORT:       MB #4263


BACKGROUND: Knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, can help relieve pain and restore function in severely diseased knee joints. The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is to relieve severe pain caused by osteoarthritis. People who need knee replacement surgery usually have problems walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs. Some also have moderate or severe knee pain at rest. As with any surgery, knee replacement surgery carries risk such as infection, blood clots, or nerve damage, but these risks are low. After surgery, a physical therapist will show the patient how to exercise their new knee, and it should take a few weeks to resume normal activity. For most people, knee replacement provides pain relief, improved mobility, and a better quality of life. But they should still avoid higher impact activities, such as jogging.

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. Dr. Pombo, an orthopedic surgeon at The Emory Orthopaedic and Spine Center, says there is faster recovery, less blood loss, and easier range of motion for patients having the personalized knee surgery.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: The medical field is utilizing 3D printing to make more than knees. Researchers at Harvard University are making great progress in bio printing blood vessels, a crucial step towards printing tissues with a blood supply. Researchers at the University of Toronto, in collaboration with Autodesk Research and CBM Canada, used 3D printing to quickly produce cheap and easily customizable prosthetic sockets for patients in the developing world. Jonathan Butcher, at Cornell University, has printed a heart valve that will soon be tested in sheep.


Alysia Satchel


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at


Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Mathew Pombo, M.D.

Read the entire Q&A