MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Do your knees ever hurt? Millions of Baby Boomers suffer from knee pain everyday. They're the driving force behind the huge growth in knee replacement surgery in the United States. Now the work of a Memphis company is changing the way that surgery is done.
It's not quite the bionic man, but a part of the process of building one.
Scott Elliott, VP of Smith and Nephew, said the company's new Visionaire system enables orthopedic surgeons to be faster and more precise in the operating room.
"We can create instruments surgical implants that are custom to that patient, rather than generic," he said. "They're going to be able to wear longer, going to be able to improve that function and patients are going to be happier."
Engineers combine a patient's MRI with a computer assisted design program to create the surgical tool that becomes a guide for the bone cutting necessary to replace a knee.
The tools are built in a three dimensional printer, where lasers heat only the areas necessary to turn a loose nylon powder into a solid object.
Technicians remove the tools, which are cleaned, measured and sent to the surgeons for use in one operation on one patient.
Elliott said Smith and Nephew expects to make the tools for about 40,000 Visionaire knee replacements this year, doubling the number every year after that.
It's about $500 more expensive than traditional methods, but is offset by reducing overall costs in the operating room. It's also covered by a patient's health insurance.