How 3D Printing Helped Keep a Pilot Flying

Pilot almost grounded due to a debilitating ankle condition; 3D printing technology allowed her to keep her wings. 

I am sure most of you have experienced walking through an airport. Those long corridors and moving walkways - there is a lot of walking involved to get to your gate. For a pilot, or anyone who works in an airport, that adds up to a lot of walking around on a regular basis.  Now imagine your ankle is in discomfort or pain with every step you take down those long corridors to your gate at the end of the terminal. For one pilot it would prove to be too much to bear unless something could be done to fix her ankle.

 3-D–printed talus with the tibial component of a total ankle in place.

 3-D–printed talus with the tibial component of a total ankle in place.

She was suffering from ankle arthritis and talus bone cysts; some so large they extended to the subtalar joint. Considering the size of the cysts traditional full ankle replacement would be risky.  Leaving her with a worse option of fusion surgery which would compromise mobility and prevent her from flying. This brave pilot reached out to Dr. Parekh at Duke Health, and the solution came in the form of 3D printing.

Utilizing MRI and CT scans Dr. Parekh's team at Duke digitally replicated her talus bone, and 3D printed a replacement that matched her own. After the surgery, the pilot endured weeks with a cast and boot and went through physical therapy to work on increasing strength and motion. The technology and hard work paid off, and the total talar replacement was successful. Not only can she continue her career as a pilot but she can now walk, and fly, comfortably knowing she will not have any issues with her ankle function going forward.

Learn more about this amazing surgery here: 
Source: Clinical Practice Today