St George’s trauma and orthopaedic team have carried out their first ever 3D custom printed bone graft in a limb-saving operation.

Russell Neighbour, 60, was the first patient to have the procedure at St George’s after he fell from a ladder in December 2018. His fall caused an open fracture to his right tibia and fibula – the two lower leg bones.

Russell said: “I was putting Christmas lights up on the outside of our house and slipped off the ladder. I fell backwards, landing half on the grass and half on the footpath. My right tibia and fibula came out through the back of my leg and buried themselves in the grass.”

Russell underwent two operations to repair the fracture, but it failed to heal and Mr Alex Trompeter, Consultant Orthopaedic Trauma and Limb Reconstruction Surgeon, recommended a 3D custom printed bone graft would give Russell the best chances of walking again. The alternatives were further surgery or an amputation.

Bone grafting is a procedure that uses transplanted bone, or an implant, to replace damaged bone. It is typically carried out for patients with complex fractures that fail to heal properly.

Mr Trompeter, who led the multidisciplinary team undertaking the operation on Tuesday 7 April, believes St George’s is one of the few centres in the UK to have performed a 3D custom printed bone graft.

Describing the procedure, Mr Trompeter said: “We removed the bottom six centimetres of Mr Neighbour’s shin bone where the fracture hadn’t healed, and we replaced it with a custom made 3D metal cage.

“The cage is made of porous metal to allow new bone to grow through and is exactly the same shape as the piece of bone we cut away.

“The benefit of personalised implants is that they start performing their functions quickly and help to speed up recovery post-surgery.”

Russell, who is now recovering at home in Ash, Surrey, said: “It is quite remarkable when you think about the work involved. I have nothing but praise for the team at St George’s.”

Mr Trompeter said: “Just a few days after surgery, it is fantastic to see that Russell is already bearing his full weight and walking comfortably again for the first time in over a year.

He added: “St George’s is pulling out all the stops to respond to coronavirus, while also ensuring that vital treatment continues for those patients with urgent conditions needing intervention.”

Notes to editors

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