3D printing in experimental orthopaedic surgery: do it yourself

  • Irene I. López-TorresEmail author
  • Pablo Sanz-Ruíz
  • Victor E. León-Román
  • Federico Navarro-García
  • Rodrigo Priego-Sánchez
  • Javier Vaquero-Martín



Periprosthetic infection is considered an increasing incidence pathology whose therapeutic strategies can be defined as unsatisfactory. Currently, animal models are employed to study its physiopathology and strategic therapies, but non-species-specific materials are implanted as foreign bodies. The use of these implants implies intrinsic instability, which hinders the development of a biofilm on their surfaces and complicates the post-operative recovery of the animal. The objective of the present study is the design of a species-specific implant for the New Zealand white (NZW) rabbit by means of 3D printing.

Materials and methods

A CT scan of the knee of a NZW rabbit was performed, and the tibial surface was reconstructed in order to fabricate a species-specific tibial plateau using Horos® and Autodesk® Meshmixer™ software. This implant was inserted in fifteen NZW rabbits, and the assessment of its stability was based on the position of the limb at rest and the animal weight-bearing capacity. Biofilm formation on the surface was demonstrated by crystal violet staining.


A 1.81 cm × 1 cm × 1.24 cm stainless steel implant was designed. It consisted of a 4-mm-thick tibial plate with a rough surface and an eccentric metaphyseal anchoring. All of the animals exhibited hyperflexion of the operated limb immediately post-operative, and 100% could apply full weight bearing from day 5 after surgery.


The species-specific design of implants in experimental surgery encourages rapid recovery of the animal and the development of a biofilm on their surfaces, making them ideal for the study of the physiopathology and for establishing possible therapeutic targets for prosthetic infection.


Periprosthetic joint infection Animal model Implant 3D printing 



Funding was provided by Santander-UCM Research Grants (PR26/16) and Mutual Medica Foundation Research Grants (2017).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gregorio Marañón General HospitalMadridSpain
  2. 2.Surgery Department, Faculty of MedicineComplutense UniversityMadridSpain
  3. 3.General Hospital of VillalbaCollado Villalba, MadridSpain
  4. 4.Department of microbiology, Faculty of PharmacyComplutense University of MadridMadridSpain

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