This September, Holy Family General Hospital in Reet, Belgium performed the first total knee replacement surgery using Materialise’s [MTLS] X-ray knee guide solution. The software converts 2D X-ray images into 3D images and printable surgical models for planning surgeries. The knee guide from Materialise eliminates the need for an MRI or CT scan to create a 3D model, saving both time and money. The average MRI costs $2,700, and CT scans can cost anywhere from $600 to $1800. Eliminating scans saves patients and insurance companies, such as UnitedHealth Group [UNH], Aetna [AET], Cigna [CI], Healthnet [HNT], and Wellpoint [WLP], a considerable amount of money. The patient and doctor save time, as Materialise takes the guesswork out of exploratory surgery.
With a 3D model, doctors can plan a procedure with precision, reducing time and, importantly, surprises. With simple low cost software models, surgeons can be not only more precise, but more productive.
Materialise plans to evaluate the product with a limited release in Europe before starting the regulatory clearance process in the US. Other companies in the 3D printing space, including Stratasys [SSYS], 3D systems [DDD], ExOne [XONE], and ProofX, also offer 3D medical modeling and implants.
Materialise’s offering is unique because the company’s solution stretches from the initial X-ray scan, through surgical planning, including creating and shipping the surgical guides. The company’s engineers work with doctors to create and test surgical plans virtually.
The Materialise solution is part of a broader trend towards surgery automation. In the near future, after the initial scan of a patient, software might plan the surgery, while 3D printers print surgical guides, and an Intuitive Surgical [ISRG] robot carries out the procedure. Will doctors soon spend more time supervising surgeries than performing them?