Bone Made with 3D Printer Helps Man Walk Again

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DES MOINES, Iowa — New technology gave a man his life back after an old ankle injury came back to haunt him.

Shaka Robinson learned to live with pain after an accident 20 years ago. “I fell out of a car, and separated my foot from my tibia,” said Robinson.

Back then, doctors reconstructed his ankle with pins. He went about his life without any big problems until he moved to Iowa this summer. “I thought I had twisted it in my yard doing yard work,” he said.

It became inflamed and infected, so he came to Broadlawns Medical Center. He learned the talus bone in his ankle was dead and had to be removed.

“The nice thing is, two years ago your option would have been to go in and tear out that bone and pack this whole thing of just a bone graft and fuse up your whole rear foot and ankle and none of it would have ever moved again,” Dr. Mica Murdoch with the Foot and Ankle Clinic.

Dr. Murdoch had a new option. “I first heard about it a year ago. It hadn’t been out much longer than that. Not very many people are doing it,” he said.

In January, Dr. Murdoch performed a total ankle replacement with a talus bone made from a 3D printer. “They use the normal ankle, or the healthy ankle in order to build a mirror image bone that we can use to replace the one that has been damaged or destroyed,” he said.

The talus is made of cobalt chromium. It can also be made of titanium. It takes six weeks to print. Robinson was the first patient to have the surgery done at Broadlawns Medical Center.

Dr. Murdoch said, “We’ve had another guy since then, and I’ve got three more on the schedule ready to go. We’re just really enjoying this improvement and this new technology that allows us to offer them something that has not been an option in the past for them.”

Shaka was walking again two weeks after his surgery. He’s now doing physical therapy to restore full movement. “I got almost a normal walk,” he said.

He’s now excited to live life to the fullest. “I was like, wow, man, I can move around. I can actually do a little moving. Maybe the wife and I can go dancing,” said Robinson.

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