MY 3D KNEE HAS SAVED MY LEG

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - GRANT McARTHUR

WHEN Brit­tany Lord faced los­ing her leg to can­cer as a teenager, sur­geons came up with a unique 3D so­lu­tion.

A mys­te­ri­ous pain in her right leg be­came so bad dur­ing 2016 she could not even straighten her leg.

“I couldn’t work out why my knee was so sore. We got the scans and were told the news — there was a tu­mour in my knee. That was a pretty aw­ful day,” Brit­tany said. “I nearly fainted.”

In­side Brit­tany’s leg, the huge tu­mour had taken over her knee and needed to be re­moved to save her life.

Chemo­ther­apy halted the os­teosar­coma be­fore it spread, but it was up to St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal’s pi­o­neer­ing orthopaedic sur­geon Prof Peter Choong to cut away the tu­mour and much of Brit­tany’s leg.

But rather than am­pu­tate he opted for limb-spar­ing surgery.

“When I saw her, she was a very frail, tiny girl in a wheel­chair, stuck in it be­cause her knee could not be straight­ened. Emo­tion­ally she was very frag­ile and very un­sure of her­self,” Prof Choong said.

“What we do is life­sav­ing, and what we do is also limb-sav­ing.”

In Brit­tany’s case, scans re­vealed that her en­tire knee would have to be re­moved.

Prof Choong had an idea to bridge the gap and al­low Brit­tany to again stand on her own two feet.

He or­dered 3D-printed im­plants that were com­bined to bridge the gap, with ad­vanced tis­sueengi­neer­ing tech­niques help­ing to mesh them with Brit­tany’s body.

“It is shaped to re­sem­ble the shape of the end of a thigh bone and the top end of a shin bone be­cause it has to fit within the con­fines of the soft tis­sue around it,” Prof Choong said.

“The pros­the­ses are new joints, but they are not nor­mal joints.

“It is like giv­ing some­body a Rolls-Royce and say­ing, ‘You can use it, but you can only use it on the farm’ — they can’t thrash it; if they want to keep it for a re­ally long time they have to be care­ful.”

Post-surgery it took Brit­tany two painful weeks of us­ing a stretch­ing ma­chine to be able to bend her knee 90 de­grees so doc­tors would let her go home.

She then re­quired a walk­ing frame for the next few months while con­tin­u­ing ex­er­cises to stop her new leg be­com­ing too tight.

Then, a year af­ter Brit­tany first got an inkling things were se­ri­ously wrong, she threw away her crutches and proudly walked into her year 12 school for­mal.

“I walked all the way by my­self with­out crutches, I was so proud. I was slower than every­one else, but I am get­ting faster,” she said.

“I al­ways knew I was go­ing to walk again, I knew I was go­ing to get a brand new knee and there was no need to chop my whole leg off.

“Now I am walk­ing per­fectly, I don’t need any­thing to help me walk. I don’t no­tice it at all, it feels just like my other knee. I love my new knee and I have a cool scar on my leg I can show every­one.” PEO­PLE CAN SHARE THEIR STO­RIES AT www.svhm. org.au/ 125years

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