Gwinnett surgeon among first in U.S. to use 3-D printing for total knee replacements

Dr. Gary Levengood customizes each knee implant based on scans and x-rays

The chief of sports medicine at Gwinnett Medical Center, Dr. Gary Levengood, was among the first U.S. surgeons to perform total knee replacements using 3-D printing technology. To date, he has completed more than 500 partial and total customized procedures. We asked him about this new technology.

What is the benefit of this procedure?
Most knee implants are off the shelf and come in only a limited range of sizes. By using custom implants, I don’t have to make compromises.

How does it work?
Instead of ink, a special liquid is converted into a plastic modeling material. This printer can then create a solid form by slowly adding layer after layer until a three-dimensional structure results. The form is based on CT scans, multiple x-rays, or MRI images of a patient’s own anatomy, and is used to create a mold for a metal implant.

What about cost?
The cost to patients is the same.

Can this procedure be used for other bones?
Currently only knee implants are available. However, the manufacturer hopes to develop replacements for hips and other joints.

This article originally appeared in our 2015 Health issue.