Prosthetic Categories

3D Printing Technology Spared Woman from Amputation

    Rebecca Chopek faced the possibility of having her right leg amputated below the knee following a car accident. Her case was a medical challenge as a bone popped out of a huge wound in her foot. The doctors never found the talus bone that connected her shinbone to the bottom of her tibia.

     3D printing saved Rebecca Chopek from an amputation.

    The 43-year-old was admitted to a hospital where the doctor recommended a below-knee amputation. So Chopek decided to request a second opinion from St. Luke’s University Health Network.

    James Lachman, MD, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at St. Luke’s, told her that her foot could be saved by 3D-printing an artificial talus bone and embedding it into the missing ankle joint.

    According to Dr. Lachman, Chopek's foot injury rarely leads to a full recovery. But thanks to the innovative implant, she can walk again. Dr. Lachman studied and authored medical reports about 3D printing during a fellowship training at Duke University. As of this publication, only a few hospitals in the US offer this bone replacement procedure.

    Dr. Lachman rebuilt Chopek’s ankle by inserting a metal, 3D-printed talus where the missing bone should be. The piece was printed from a reverse image CT scan of Chopek’s intact left ankle.

    After the procedure, Chopek wore a cast for three weeks to allow the wound the heal, followed by a walking boot. After three weeks, she started physical therapy to improve her range of motion, and by six weeks, she was bearing weight. Chopek exchanged the walking boot for a supportive sneaker on the eighth week.

    A few months after her 2020 accident, Chopek returned to her active life.