Malaysian-born surgeon puts patient back on feet with world’s first 3D-printed heel transplant

Professor Peter Choong, who hails from Kuala Lumpur, led a medical team at St Vincent's Hospital here to implant the new body part on 71-year-old Len Chandler's right heel after he was diagnosed with cartilage cancer. — AFP pic
Professor Peter Choong, who hails from Kuala Lumpur, led a medical team at St Vincent's Hospital here to implant the new body part on 71-year-old Len Chandler's right heel after he was diagnosed with cartilage cancer. — AFP pic

MELBOURNE, Oct 21 — A Malaysian-born orthopaedic surgeon has put a cancer-stricken septuagenarian back on his feet after having his heel removed and replaced with a 3D-printed titanium replica in a world's first.

Professor Peter Choong, who hails from Kuala Lumpur, led a medical team at St Vincent's Hospital here to implant the new body part on 71-year-old Len Chandler's right heel after he was diagnosed with cartilage cancer.

Doctors at St Vincent's had told Chandler, a builder from rural Victoria, that surgery was the only treatment option and that could involve an amputation of the leg below the knee.

"Prof Choong said we could take the risk, and I had nothing to lose," Chandler said in a statement issued by the hospital today.

"I was hesitant and I didn't know whether it would work, but I had to try it," he said.

"Science advances have allowed us to consider 3D printing of bones and we were able to get information from Len's foot and use that to tell the computers precisely how big his foot was, and reproduce that using the new 3D technology," said Choong.

As well as needing to be a perfect replica of Chandler's own bone, the implant required an ultra-smooth surface so it could work seamlessly with his other bones, tendons and muscles, the hospital said. 

And it had to be porous to allow tissue to grow into it for the body to accept.

Choong was aware of Australia's national science agency, CSIRO's work in titanium 3D.

At the time, CSIRO had been working with the Victorian-based biotech company, Anatomics, on metallic implant technology and CSIRO brought Anatomics into the discussion with Choong to draw on their experience as a certified custom medical device manufacturer.

In two weeks, CSIRO and Anatomics were able to custom-design an implant part for the St Vincent's surgical team, in time for the surgery in mid-July.

After about 12 days in hospital, Chandler was able to return his home in Rutherglen, Victoria. — Bernama

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