Ground-breaking new hip surgery carried out at Norwich hospital

Orthopaedic consultant John Nolan.

Orthopaedic consultant John Nolan. - Credit: Archant

History has been made at the N&N after it became the first hospital in the east of England to carry out a pioneering new hip replacement created by a 3D printer.

The operation, performed by orthopaedic consultant John Nolan, was one of the first of its kind in the country and was carried out on a 68-year old Norfolk woman.

The N&N has long pioneered hip replacements as it was one of the first hospitals to carry out the procedure, back in 1951.

Mr Nolan, who is president of the British Hip Society, said the patient had lost a 'staggering amount of bone' which meant there was no way to do a hip reconstruction.

So the patient's pelvis was scanned and 3D images of her hips were sent to a Belgian company.

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The company created an implant made of trabecular metal (a mix of spongy tissue and adult bone) and then tested by being inserted into a plastic copy of the patient's pelvis. After the operation the patient's bone will grow into the porous implant, which means the new hip should last the patient's lifetime. Mr Nolan said he turned to the technique because the patient had both hips replaced 25 years ago, but her right hip had disintegrated and the bone had started dissolving.

Metal pins had been put in but they were not going to last.

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The patient, who did not want to be identified, said: 'He (Mr Nolan) has given me my life back and made me more independent.' Mr Nolan, who has carried out 5,000 hip operations in his career, is now planning a second hip replacement using the same technology.

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