3-D printing changing lives in medical world; used to replace Mid-South man’s shoulder

Local Health Alert

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. – “We can now deal with problems that beforehand we couldn’t address,” said Dr. Chris Pokabla. 

Dr. Pokabla is an orthopedic surgeon at Saint Francis Hospital. He’s talking about 3-D printing. It’s a technological advancement that’s changing his patients’ lives.

“I’ve been doing real well. My sense of motion is real good,” said Jonathan Patrick. 

Jonathan Patrick recently underwent shoulder replacement surgery using 3-D printing technology, after almost a decade of pain and limited mobility in his shoulder. He had his first surgery in 2009 for shoulder replacement, but his troubles didn’t end there. 

After a fall in 2017, his old replacement broke and he needed a new one. It was replaced a year later, but doctors discovered severe bone loss due to an MRSA infection in the area when they went into operate. MRSA is an infection that can harbor flesh-eating bacteria.

Pokabla said, “He had such a bad defect involving the bone, that we had to make a specialized implant only for him.”

Dr. Pokabla came up with a new solution for Patrick’s unique complication: a 3-D shoulder replacement.

He said, “We needed a model like this, so it could tell us not only where to put the screws to fix the implant, but it would also make up for that bone loss.”

Patrick said, “When they first told me what they did, I thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of odd,’ and my first thought was ‘is this going be made of plastic?’”

The replacement is made of a titanium alloy. X-Ray images show the older screws from Patrick’s previous surgeries and his new personalized implant at work. 

Patrick said, “Infection ate away the bone, so it’s like a perfect fit.”

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