3D Systems preps for global launch of 'printed' knee implants for dogs

3-D printed knee implants--Courtesy of 3D Systems

When the story of Derby the disabled dog went viral late last year, it was a boon to South Carolina-based 3D Systems ($DDD), which invented the prosthetic legs that allowed the rambunctious pet to run and play. Now 3DS is going global with another orthopedic advance for dogs: titanium knee implants made with a 3D printer.

So far, 10,000 dogs suffering from injuries or degeneration of their hind leg ligaments have received the implants in Europe and the U.S., according to a press release from 3DS. The company is preparing for a worldwide launch, as well as working on scaled-down implants for small dogs and cats.

The implant is designed to be inserted in the lower leg, where it reorganizes mechanical forces and stabilizes the knee, according to the release. The technology generally eliminates the need to repair damaged ligaments, and 3D printing can be done more efficiently and economically than traditional manufacturing, said Kevin McAlea, chief operating officer for healthcare products at 3DS in the release. Dogs are fully mobile 6 weeks after surgery.

"It is heartbreaking to see your dog in so much pain that he or she can barely walk," said Rita Leibinger, founder of Germany-based Rita Leibinger Medical, in the release. Leibinger partnered with 3DS to manufacture the implants. The surgical technique was perfected in collaboration with Ghent University in Belgium. "With this implant we experienced faster, more successful surgery and a faster recovery period," when compared with traditional surgical techniques, Leibinger said.

Although market-size estimates for veterinary orthopedics are hard to come by, there's little doubt that interest in this field is on the rise. John Malone, chairman of Liberty Global Media, and his wife have awarded Colorado State University nearly $50 million to fund research in new joint-repair technologies for horses. The research is partly aimed at helping people with orthopedic problems, too. And distributor Henry Schein ($HSIC) told investors earlier this year that it is expanding its presence in veterinary orthopedics in response to strong demand.

- here's the 3DS press release
- read more at TechRepublic