MY 3D KNEE HAS SAVED MY LEG
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