Outcomes of Surgical Reconstruction Using Custom 3D-Printed Porous Titanium Implants for Critical-Sized Bone Defects of the Foot and Ankle

Foot Ankle Int. 2022 Jun;43(6):750-761. doi: 10.1177/10711007221077113. Epub 2022 Feb 24.


Background: Treating critically sized defects (CSDs) of bone remains a significant challenge in foot and ankle surgery. Custom 3D-printed implants are being offered to a small but growing subset of patients as a salvage procedure in lieu of traditional alternates such as structural allografts after the patient has failed prior procedures. The long-term outcomes of 3D-printed implants are still unknown and understudied because of the limited number of cases and short follow-up durations. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the outcomes of patients who received custom 3D-printed implants to treat CSDs of the foot and ankle in an attempt to aid surgeons in selecting appropriate surgical candidates.

Methods: This was a retrospective study to assess surgical outcomes of patients who underwent implantation of a custom 3D-printed implant made with medical-grade titanium alloy powder (Ti-6Al-4V) to treat CSDs of the foot and ankle between June 1, 2014, and September 30, 2019. All patients had failed previous nonoperative or operative management before proceeding with treatment with a custom 3D-printed implant. Univariate and multivariate odds ratios (ORs) of a secondary surgery and implant removal were calculated for perioperative variables.

Results: There were 39 cases of patients who received a custom 3D-printed implant with at least 1 year of follow-up. The mean follow-up time was 27.0 (12-74) months. Thirteen of 39 cases (33.3%) required a secondary surgery and 10 of 39 (25.6%) required removal of the implant because of septic nonunion (6/10) or aseptic nonunion (4/10). The mean time to secondary surgery was 10 months (1-22). Multivariate logistic regression revealed that patients with neuropathy were more likely to require a secondary surgery with an OR of 5.76 (P = .03).

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that 74% of patients who received a custom 3D-printed implant for CSDs did not require as subsequent surgery (minimum of 1-year follow-up). Neuropathy was significantly associated with the need for a secondary surgery. This is the largest series to date demonstrating the efficacy of 3D-printed custom titanium implants. As the number of cases using patient-specific 3D-printed titanium implant increases, larger cohorts of patients should be studied to identify other high-risk groups and possible interventions to improve surgical outcomes.

Level of evidence: Level IV, case series.

Keywords: 3D printing; additive manufacturing; critically sized defects; foot and ankle surgery; neuropathy; nonunion; osseous integration; outcome studies; patient-specific implant.

MeSH terms

  • Ankle*
  • Humans
  • Porosity
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Titanium*


  • Titanium