MT Ortho, an Italian company with decades of experience in the traditional prostheses market, was also among the first to truly embrace the potential of 3D printing for prosthetic production. The company’s journey with 3D printing began in 2014, when it acquired two GE Additive Arcam Electron Beam Melting (EBM) machines (obviously, at the time they were simply Arcam EBM machines), and employed Simone Di Bella, a recent engineering graduate with additive manufacturing expertise.
“Our goal was to become not only a distributor, but also a manufacturer of medical devices,” said Di Bella. “And our vision was to achieve this by creating new, innovative devices with unique features that were only possible by using additive manufacturing and were more compatible with the human bone than metals on the market at the time.”
Based in Sicily, MT Ortho’s custom 3D printed prosthetics are bone replacement devices that are used for a range of procedures, including cranioplasty and oncological orthopedics. In the beginning, these two areas were its focus, however the company has also undertaken a number of projects in the field of neurosurgery, including the development of a kyphoplasty implant for the treatment of vertebral collapse. This innovative device could be used to replace current bone fillers (like cements or bio-cements) with an osteoinductive material, resulting in fewer complications and side-effects.
Like with other 3D printed prostheses manufacturers, medical imaging is at the foundation of MT Ortho’s offering. That is, medical imaging technologies like CT scanning are used to design patient-specific prostheses that fit the patient’s anatomy perfectly. A custom implant also helps to improve the planning, surgical and recovery stages.
Custom prostheses are particularly beneficial in orthopedic surgery, oncological orthopedics, neurosurgery and maxillofacial surgery: all areas where MT Ortho now offers solutions. It has particularly excelled in the development of a new line of cranioplasty prostheses, which are today in use across Europe. This solution comprises not only the custom implant, but also precise cutting templates which can facilitate surgical planning and execution. According to the company, using its cranioplasty solution, the removal of the area affected by disease and the implantation of the cranial prosthesis can happen simultaneously. This reduces the procedure’s time and consequently the post-operative recovery times and infection risks.
MT Ortho also specializes in the production of cancer prosthetics for bone sarcomas or chondrosarcomas. In these cases, additive manufacturing is used to precisely reconstruct a patient’s bone anatomy after the tumor is removed. The company is still developing this solution, working in collaboration with the Department of Oncological Orthopedics at the National Cancer Institute Regina Elena of Rome. Eventually, it plans to integrate surgical aids like cutting guides and precision positioning tools to complete this offering.
Through its additive manufacturing partner GE Additive, MT Ortho has provided a glimpse into the custom prosthetic making process, laying out each step in the process. It offers an interesting insight into how the game-changing medical devices are actually made.
First, as you may already know, is the CT scan, which provides the imaging data necessary to design the patient-specific implant. Following that, a conference call is held between MT Ortho and the patient’s doctor, in which the intervention and access routes are discussed and planned. Implant designers can then determine the characteristics of the fixing systems and decide on the resistance of the material. The prosthesis is then 3D modeled and reviewed in collaboration with the surgeon.
Once the design is approved, the model is 3D printed (often with a backup). Most implants do not require any special post-treatment except washing and sterilization, which typically occurs at the hospital. Then follows the surgical procedure. In some cases, MT Ortho will dispatch a product specialist to be present in the operating room to assist the surgeon with proper positioning.