New treatment using 3D printed implants that could bring relief to numerous knee osteoarthritis sufferers has received approval to be trialled in UK patients, following a virtual “in-silico” trial that demonstrated its safety.
The personalised early knee osteoarthritis treatment, developed by engineers at the University of Bath’s Centre for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI), uses state of the art 3D metal printing technology to make personalised medical-grade titanium-alloy plates that perfectly fit every patient.
The TOKA (Tailored Osteotomy for Knee Alignment) treatment improves the operative procedure and fit of high-tibial osteotomy (HTO) plates used to realign a patient’s knee, making them more stable, comfortable and better able to bear weight than existing generic plates. The technique also simplifies HTO surgery, making operations quicker and therefore safer.
The HTO plates have already been safety tested virtually, in a computer-based trial using CT scan data from 28 patients. The in-silico clinical trial modelled the stresses that would be exerted on the bespoke plates and showed that they would be comparable in safety to the standard treatment.
Professor Richie Gill, from the Centre for Therapeutic Innovation, says: “Knee osteoarthritis is a major health, social and economic issue and does not receive as much attention as it should. A quarter of women over 45 have it, and about 15 percent of men, so it’s a significant burden that many live with.
“Knee replacement is only useful for end-stage osteoarthritis, so you can be in pain and have to live with a disability for a long time, potentially decades, before it’s possible. We hope that the new TOKA process we’ve developed will change that”, he added.
The process also sees the first implementation of 3D printed screw threads into the HTO plates, meaning they can be optimally positioned to help secure them against the bone. “Importantly this type of treatment relieves the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis while preserving the natural joint”, a senior doctor said.