Custom joint implants are gaining traction since, as opposed to traditional implants, patient-specific or personalized orthopedic solutions can be designed and manufactured with extreme precision to match a patient’s unique anatomy. For instance, custom-made knee joints have been proven to result in better knee alignment than off-the-shelf solutions.
The orthopedic implants market, both traditional and customized, is valued at USD 45 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach USD 68 billion by 2029. According to Dr. Šarūnas Tarasevičius, an orthopedic surgeon at Nordorthopaedics Clinic, a leading international orthopedic center in Kaunas, Lithuania, there are a number of factors that influence the rapid growth of the implant and orthopedic surgery market.
“The global population is aging, and the prevalence of orthopedic diseases such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, disc diseases, hip and knee pain, and low bone density is on the rise. Traumas, accidents, and injuries are also becoming widespread due to an increased active lifestyle,” the surgeon said. “All this, coupled with the rising acceptance of implantable medical devices and the fast advances in 3D imaging, modeling, and digital manufacturing, is furthering the fast growth of the market.”
Time-consuming widespread application
Despite the advantages presented by patient-specific implants, designing, manufacturing, and delivery of customized solutions are time-consuming, and in some markets, such as North America, face reimbursement and surgeon acceptance hurdles.
Research published by the US National Library of Medicine indicates that custom implants promise a personalized surgical approach with the aim of improving patient satisfaction. That said, some studies have found no substantial clinical improvements in postoperative validated outcome scores, risks of reoperation, and implant alignment.
“To this day, we do not have any significant, research-based proof, that custom implants are providing better results in terms of function and longevity. Currently, producing custom implants takes more time and radiation tests, and there’s no reason to do this — in most cases, there’s no big advantage in using custom-made implants,” added Dr. Tarasevičius.
Potential risks during surgery
The orthopedic surgeon also maintained that there are some risks attributed to custom-made implants.
“If a patient-specific implant is not made precisely, it can even result in periprosthetic fractures. Moreover, the surgeon is given less freedom to make on-the-spot decisions during the surgery,” Dr. Tarasevičius said.
For this reason, orthopedic surgeons still go for traditional, off-the-shelf solutions.
“The market for orthopedic implants and the advanced technology involved is growing in leaps and bounds, yet for the foreseeable future, it seems that the traditional, ready-made solutions are here to stay and will account for a large portion of procedures worldwide,” Dr. Tarasevičius concluded.