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    Media Statements

    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services
    The Honourable Cameron Dick

    Ground-breaking surgery another world first for Queensland Health

    Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services
    The Honourable Cameron Dick

    Friday, September 08, 2017

    Ground-breaking surgery another world first for Queensland Health

    In a world-first, surgeons at Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) have transplanted a 3D printed shinbone (tibia) into a patient.

    Reuben Lichter, 26, had the procedure after developing spontaneous onset of tibial osteomyelitis, or an infection of the bone, which resulted in the majority of his tibia or shinbone being destroyed.

    Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said all steps in the process had been undertaken in Brisbane, with the exception of the manufacture of the 3D model.

    “Innovative and ground-breaking treatments and technologies such as this world-first surgery offer new hope for Queensland patients,” Mr Dick said.

    “Queensland Health leads the nation and the world in so many ways and this is another example of Queensland innovation at its best.

    “As Health Minister, I am humbled and inspired by the outstanding work Queensland Health clinicians do in our public hospitals each and every day.”

    Conventional treatment for Mr Lichter’s condition was an above knee amputation.

    However, PAH Plastic Surgeon Dr Michael Wagels said they were able to save the leg by inserting a 3D printed model, wrapped in biological tissue in an effort to engineer new bone.

    The model was created in a laboratory in Singapore, one of the few places in the world capable of developing an implantable prosthesis such as this.

    “A multi-disciplinary operating team involving orthopaedic and plastic surgeons took 14 hours to reconstruct Mr Lichter’s tibia with a 3D printed model,” Dr Wagels said.

    “The procedure involved removing tissue from the bone of the adjacent fibula with its blood supply intact and transferring it into the 3D model to cover approximately half of the model with the elements required to transform it into living bone.

    “Additional tissue from the opposite knee was also removed and transplanted. This involved microsurgery to connect the blood vessels of the transplanted tissue the blood supply of the already transferred fibula periosteum. We know from our research that a robust blood supply is a crucial element to the success of the procedure.”

    Mr Lichter has been unable to work since September 2016 and recently became a father.

    He said he was happy to undergo the unique and experimental procedure if it meant surgeons would not have to amputate his leg.

    “Straight away I said yep let’s do it, I didn’t care that it was experimental, I would do anything to save my leg,” he said.

    Mr Lichter said he was hopeful the procedure would be a success and remained positive about the surgery and his prospects.

    “I actually think that I’ve always had a healthy outlook on this surgery. I was just so glad initially that I wasn’t in pain anymore. Because once they controlled the infection the pain disappeared and I said whatever happens from here, it’s better than living in pain.”

    Mr Lichter’s said his wife Caity Bell had been a huge support throughout.

    “We actually had our child two days before I was hospitalised, so she’s been amazing, a trooper,” he said.


    Media contact:          (Health Minister) Catherine Palmer, 0424 823 424


                                        (PA Hospital) Olivia Fens, 3176 7899