So-called “long bone injuries” — most likely the result of a traumatic impact commonly seen in vehicular accidents — can be a challenge for surgeons attempting to achieve proper healing of the bone and soft tissues.
Charles Jordan, M.D., an orthopedic trauma surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute, is the first to use a new-to-the market, 3-D printed implant to restore — and allow to heal — a patient’s traumatic injury to her femur, the only bone in the thigh and the longest and strongest bone in the human body.
The patient went through several surgeries in her hometown of Jacksonville to attempt to restore her femur with more standard methods, but she was then referred to Dr. Jordan, who would implant the TruMatch Graft Cage for long bone injuries, which is 3-D printed in just 10 days, making it highly customizable to a patient’s anatomy. It works by supporting bone grafts, which act as agents that fill gaps in the bone but also biologically stimulate new bone growth.
The TruMatch Graft Cage, manufactured by a division of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, can be absorbed by the body. Johnson & Johnson states that the graft cage has been in development for five years and that Dr. Jordan is the first surgeon in the world to implant it in a patient.
It is described by Dr. Jordan and its makers as a type of “scaffolding,” which in the non-medical world refers to a temporary structure used by workers who are constructing, repairing, or cleaning a structure or building.
“One of the things that is thought to greatly increase the rate at which bone grafting procedures heal is to have a scaffolding,” explains Dr. Jordan. “So, this graft cage is really innovative because it is 3-D printed to the patient’s specifications. We’re actually taking the bone defect and making a model that fits inside that defect. But it is also a scaffolding that remains there for the time it needs to be there. And then it gets absorbed by the body.”
Previously, there have been other types of “cages” for similar procedures, but none of a material that can be safely absorbed by the body, requiring no follow-up procedures. This is the first to be 3-D printed.
Dr. Jordan actually performed two procedures on the patient that received the TruMatch Graft Cage implant. Six weeks before the implantation, she underwent a procedure that employs the “induced membrane technique.” During this two-phase procedure, an “antibiotic cement spacer” is inserted within the bony defect. During the second procedure, a bone graft is substituted. These two steps induce the formation of a membrane that creates a favorable environment for bone healing.
“It creates a membrane which studies have shown is chock full of growth factors and proteins that help with bone growth,” said Dr. Jordan.
Even though the induced membrane technique is well established, Dr. Jordan points out that in many serious long bone injuries, it may fail to help fully restore proper bone healing. The TruMatch Graft Cage is the “missing link” that orthopedic surgeons have been seeking.
“This device promises to be the missing link to the puzzle for these sorts of procedures,” says Dr. Jordan. “We’re changing the way that we treat these injuries. Previously, there was often something missing to fully heal and restore long bone injuries. This could very well be that piece.”