The anterior cruciate ligament, or the ACL, is one of the most vital connective sinews located in the knee. It keeps athletes going and when it is torn due to intense training or performance, then it would mean a world of pain for them. It is also difficult to fix when it is torn and there is also the possibility that it will tear up again once it has been fixed. It is a dangerous thing, losing an ACL.
The surgical intervention that is required to handle such a ligament is comprised of drilling a hole through the tibia, getting rid of the torn ligament, remaking it using a grafted transplant, then putting it in the appropriate site. You may think that it’s a very technical set of steps, but it is a very delicate procedure. What makes it more difficult is the fact that the ligament is difficult to connect to its normal link with only the tibia as the entry point. The ACL is a very difficult connective tissue.
And if you’re thinking that the procedure is painful, then you are definitely right. If the grafted fresh ligament isn’t able to handle the strain that the main ligament wasn’t able to hold in the first place, the procedure would be for naught. But a solution has been devised by Dr. Dana Piasecki, an OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine surgeon of orthopedics. Dr. Piasecki will use a 3D printed surgical tool to help the ailing patients with their torn ACL.
What the good doctor needs is a drill that are flexible enough to be able to follow the natural curved nature of the ligament’s path in the tibia and an instrument that would hold the drill and assist with its purposes. They made the tools using her own design. But she didn’t have the resources to manufacture the tools adequately and on time.
Manufacturing such a small, complex tool at a low cost was going to be a challenge, so Dr. Piasecki turned to 3D printing. First she hand-carved the tool from plastic until he was satisfied with its shape, then turned it over to 3D scanning company Laser Design, who scanned it and created a 3D model. The company then printed several plastic prototypes using FDM technology, but the final tool would need to be printed with a strong, biocompatible metal that could be easily modified at low cost to accommodate the varying knee-sizes of patients.
She turned to 3D printing for help because it would give her the right shape, size and dimensions of her surgical tool. The company Laser Design signed on to assist her. After creating plastic prototypes, they would finalize the product with a metal that is biocompatible.
Named Pathfinder, this revolutionary surgical tool would be able to allow surgeons more accuracy when it comes to their procedures. The flexibility of the product would help in giving more movement options when it comes to navigating the tibia.
Who knows, maybe it’s a very important leap in medical & surgical treatment. A lot of people may benefit from 3D printed tools.