Mesa man becomes 1st person in Arizona to get 3D-printed ankle replacement

MESA, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- New technology is changing the future of orthopedic surgery, and it's happening in Arizona, where a Mesa man is now the first patient in the state to receive a 3D printed ankle bone replacement.

Elliot Munro is a two-time leukemia and bone marrow transplant survivor. While he is in remission, the cancer treatments caused other conditions, such as avascular necrosis, which causes his bones to die. The condition recently affected his ankle. Other more typical surgeries wouldn't work because of the condition, and his only option was amputation until modern-day technology saved the day.

With the 3D-printed ankle bone, Munro was able to keep his foot.

"It's kind of what connects the leg to the foot, and it's kind of the core part that functions, the ankle," said Munro. "Up here is where you have the movement in the ankle and then the foot goes out."

Less than 50 of these types of surgeries have been done in the United States, and orthopedic surgeon Jeff Holmes performed the surgery at Banner Boswell. Holmes says it's not much more technical than a standard ankle replacement.

"This is an anatomic 3D replica of his talus, and they do that by taking a CT scan of his other ankle, and then replicating it and doing a mirror image of it so it is made out of a solid piece of titanium," said Dr. Holmes. "It's coated with cobalt-chromium, which is the same as all the joint replacements."

As the surgery is so new, there's no word on how successful it will be. Munro says his results are already better than what he had hoped.

"It was a god-send that gave me a second chance at having two normal legs and being able to walk and play with my kids and do everything a normal person can do," said Munro.

Both the doctor and the patient are hoping to raise awareness about this type of technology, so more insurance companies will cover it. Some at this point don't.