Doctors use 3-D printer to fashion man's replacement knee - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Doctors use 3-D printer to fashion man's replacement knee

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville grandfather is calling himself a medical miracle. He's the new twist on the bionic man, and his 3-D knee might create hope for patients waiting for an organ transplant. 

It has been a long and painful road for Doug Morris, and every scar tells a story. He has had three torn ACLs, and seven seven knee surgeries on his right leg. All in the last 15 years. Morris said, "It was just constant pain." 

But his most recent surgery is the story he wants to share. 

A year ago this month Morris underwent a complete knee replacement. 

It wasn't the traditional  procedure with a generic mold implanted. Instead, doctors scanned his body from the waist down, laser printing an exact replica to make Morris a custom 3-D knee to perfectly match his body. Morris said, " It changed my life. I could do the things I wanted to do again. I was no longer living in pain."

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Wallace Huff said, "There's a little less tearing, swelling and bleeding and I've noticed that the recovery is quicker than with the off-the-shelf knee."

Dr. Huff is one of only a handful of physicians doing 3-D knee replacements in Kentucky. He says 3-D printing opens the door to major medical advancements. "The possibilities are unlimited," Huff said. "I think we'll start to see the production of artificial organs like hearts for transplants. All that technology is in process.

The drawbacks -- the cost can be near six figures, and 3-D knees are not covered by all insurance companies. Plus, the procedure is so new, there's no studies on long term results. Experts estimate roughly 700,000 people undergo knee replacement surgery each year. 

"I tell everybody I see that's got knee problems to at least research it, and go talk to the doctor," Morris said. 

Doctors told Morris he won't need surgery on his knee again for 20 years or 30 years. 

The 3-D knee is typically an outpatient procedure. Morris was home and walking the same day.

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