3D implant saves leg

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Imagine surviving a car crash, only to be told by doctors that while your life was saved, you'd lose your leg. For one woman, the news was devastating, but then she learned of a new technology that could put her back on her feet again.

Ruth Smith-Leigh is finally feeling no pain after a car accident last year crushed her leg, breaking her shin, ankle and multiple bones in her foot.

Smith-Leigh was referred to Samuel B. Adams, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University Medical Center.

Dr. Adams told ABC30, "It's very, very serious. Most people do end up losing their leg from this type of injury."

Smith-Leigh said, "It was a very frightening situation for me to be in at that point; frightening and almost hopeless."

In the past, amputation would have been the likely outcome. But thanks to a new custom 3D printed bone implant, her leg repaired itself.

"This is a tremendous breakthrough. It gives us so many more options that we didn't have. We can make any shape and size that we want, and the 3D implant, the truss technology that's used is actually stronger than the native bone," Dr. Adams explained.

Using CT scans, Smith-Leigh's anatomy was recreated with an implant made of titanium to fit the bone.

Dr. Adams said, "Your body's bone cells love to grow into this material both on a microscopic level and because of these open pores, the bone can grow around and through it."

Eight months after surgery, Smith-Leigh told ABC30, "I returned back to work. I am now back to being a basketball and a soccer mom and just getting things back to normal," and back on her feet.

Only a handful of patients have received 3D printed bone implants in the U.S. Dr. Adams says the new technology can be used to help save the limbs of those with bone cancer or any trauma or accident, without the risk of rejection seen with traditional methods like bone grafting.

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Sarah Avery

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