3D-printed hip implant lets teenager walk again


February 9, 2014

The 3D-printed implant that has given a once wheelchair-consigned teenager the ability to walk on her own

The 3D-printed implant that has given a once wheelchair-consigned teenager the ability to walk on her own

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Much of the fanfare surrounding 3D printing has centered on its enabling consumers to create objects themselves, potentially circumventing traditional production models. Alongside NBA figurines and 3D printed pizza, however, the technology continues to provide valuable solutions in the field of medicine. Mobelife, a Belgium-based implant design company, has 3D printed a custom hip implant and given a once wheelchair-consigned teenager the ability to walk on her own.

The 15-year old Swedish girl suffered from a congenital disease which saw a neurofibroma, a benign tumor which grows on the peripheral nervous system, cause extensive damage to her pelvis. When surgery to remove the neurofibroma was followed by complications and ultimately a severe skeletal deformation of her left hip, the treatment options were limited and her doctors were uncertain if she would ever walk again.

Professor Rydholm of Skane University Hospital in Lund, Sweden, who was looking after the case, approached Mobelife, which on its website describes itself as "a specialist in implant design and production for challenging bone and joint reconstruction surgery."

Mobelife then set to work in creating the custom implant. Reuters reports that it was designed using a tomography scan, which creates a picture of the patient's unique bone anatomy. The implant was then used to reconstruct the defect, with screws attaching the implant placed strategically, based on the quality of the surrounding bone.

With the operation taking place in September 2012, she was pain free almost immediately afterwards. By Christmas she was out of her wheelchair and walking with one crutch, and now some 18 months later, is walking entirely un-aided.

Source: Mobelife, Reuters

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

Hopefully this will become best practice for all implants. Generically sized implants are no longer necessary and can cause enormous rehabilitative troubles. It wasn't long ago that prosthetics only came in ' standard white male '. Not strictly related, but apt.

Paul Robertson

The next major step here is to 3D print a disposable scaffold joint implant that the host can remodel with her own cells and progressively wind up with a strong repair indistinguishable from a natural joint. There are lots of researchers working toward some or all of this. The recent discovery of a fast, cheap, & effective way to produce large quantities of induced pluripotent stem cells from the host is a big new tool for this toolkit.


Phooey! No Before and After shots? How can I believe this without photos corroborating this? Time to get journalistic, folks! I mean, come on!

Dan Lewis

A great application for this tech. I agree with Paul's comments.


Dan L -- What do you expect to see??????? Photos of a girl in a w'chair followed by a girl on a crutch? Or a surgical wound with a bit of bone sticking up? Get real! The implant through the genius of 3D is the story here.

The Skud

I have only one question. Has the girl achieved her full height ? What will happen in a few years time if she grows taller or wider ?


3D- printed hip implants are nothing new. It's the main product of electron-beam melting (EBM) machines, which are made by Arcam, another Swedish company. This particular one in the article was just extra extra custom because of the unusual shape of the surrounding bone.


Really cool stuff. Similar the titanium lower jaw 3D-printed for that old woman who was in need of one. This is a glimpse of the potential of what modern technology and science is capable of. Bringing back the quality of life to disabled people.

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