Ruth Smith-Leigh of Halifax, VA was driving home from a birthday party with her two young boys when their car was hit head-on. Her boys were fine, but Smith-Leigh’s left leg was severely injured. She was transported to Duke University Hospital in Durham where she underwent emergency surgery.
“I thought I had a bad break but I didn’t realize all the complications,” Smith-Leigh recalled.
After learning amputation was a possibility, Smith-Leigh went to see Duke orthopaedic surgeon Samuel Adams, MD, a foot and ankle specialist who had something else in mind. He recommended a 3-D computer-printed, custom bone implant.
The computer prints “a titanium cage to replace the missing bone,” Adams explained. The cage works just like the scaffolding inside a building; it distributes forces around the entire structure while allowing the bone to maintain its structural integrity.
However, this FDA-approved medical device does more. It actually creates a response within the remaining bone, which encourages the bone to grow back within the cage.
The end result, said Adams, “is a structurally sound device that is stronger than her bone.”