Doctors 3-D print the perfect knee replacement

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Despite it being one of the most common surgeries in the nation, knee replacement is far from perfect.

But new technology is changing that and as it turns out the perfect fit can be printed out.

Dr. Eric Stem with Lowcountry Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine said when therapy, medication and injections won't work, sometimes knee replacement is the only option.

"It's invasive. It requires cutting the bone," he said. "Approximately 15 percent of patients who have knee surgery are unhappy with their results for a variety of reasons."

It's why he's now using a custom knee called Conformis. Using CT scan images of a patient's hip, knee and ankle, a custom knee is created using 3-D printing technology. Stem has performed nearly 50 procedures with the device.

"There’s no overhang, there’s no under hang, there’s no uncovered bone. It fits perfectly," Stem said. "So far, patients are happy. The implants fit very nicely, they’re contoured to the bone and they match each individual patient."

Bonnie Dan used to live with chronic knee pain.

"Just going up and down steps into the house, where I worked there was steps. To be able to go up and down and you know, just going out and shopping would hurt when you would go out for a while, going to the grocery store," she said.

Dan had two knee replacements, one in 2016 and one in 2017—both fitted with Conformis. Despite recent shoulder surgery, she said life has returned to normal and she can move without pain.

"It’s been fine," said Dan. "So many people before had said they could feel a difference in their knees that they felt different than their normal knees and I’ve not noticed any different feeling, it just feels like my normal knee."

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