My weird femur printed in stainless steel

Back in January, I had surgery to correct femoral-acetabular impingement with cam impingement (basically, I was born with a bunch of extra bone in my hip socket, and over the years, it had caused a series of worsening problems and would have eventually necessitated hip replacement). My clever wife worked with Joris from the 3D printing startup i.materialise to produce a 3D model of my pre-op femur based on my MRIs, and then they outputted a miniature of that sucker in stainless steel with a ring for me to string onto my keyring.

The surgery is very much with me (I've been off the cane for a week, but something went wrong on Saturday and I could barely walk all weekend), but someday soon, it'll be a thing of the distant past. This is a fine and futuristic little memento of the unfortunate exuberance of my bones. Thanks, Alice and Joris!

My femur

Update: Joris sez, "Glad you like the hip. It's bronze-infused stainless steel and not titanium though." And now you know!


  1. Joris and iMaterialise did ALL THE WORK and had the idea, too.
    I just stole your MRIs. Muahah.

  2. Wishing you a speedy recovery…

    I have the same problem. My initial arthscopracy didn’t take (I was too late–the cartilage was gone) and now I am looking at a replacement this summer. My dilemma is whether to do a total replacement or a resurfacing. There are pros and cons for both. Anyone have any experiences to share?

    1. @sabeke,

      I design replacement hips, and have been doing so for a few years now, so I can speak to it a bit just from what I know. As a general disclosure, this is in no way medical advice, and I am not qualified or licensed to make any kind of medical diagnosis or suggestion.

      That being said, has your surgeon recommended either option to you above the other? Typically, if you have good bone stock on your femoral neck and your particular surgeon is an advocate and frequent user of resurfacing, it’s certainly less traumatic to the bone and can have excellent results. As a bonus, if you need it revised, you can have the femoral side replaced with a primary stem as if you were getting your first implant, as opposed to a revision stem, which are sometimes a big deal.

      On the other side, though, with a total replacement you have more options for the material used for the bearing. A resurfacing is almost always metal on metal with cobalt chrome, and if you have ANY nickel sensitivity, this is probably a poor choice. With a total, you could have ceramic on ceramic, ceramic on metal, and some companies have proprietary materials as well. Unless you’re younger, it’s unlikely you’d have a poly cup as even the newest ones have more wear and they’re -typically- used for much older patients, but some surgeons do use them in some cases.

      One thing that I’d like to stress is that your surgeon almost certainly knows what he or she is doing. I hear from surgeons all the time that some guy came in needing a total replacement, but demanded he have a resurfacing because “he read online that they’re better and will improve his sex life” or whatever. When the surgeon tried to explain he wasn’t a candidate for that procedure, the guy threw a fit and found another surgeon who was willing to do it even against better judgement.

      Do your research and be well informed, ask questions, and check on the reputation of your surgeon, but don’t think you know better than them.

  3. Sequence of events:

    -think “Oh, that hip thing sounds unpleasant!”
    -click on PaulR’s link
    -scoll down to illustration of condition
    -sharp intake of breath, horrified exhale

    That looks *painful*. Best of luck in recovery, glad you caught it before replacement was needed!

  4. Made a little big bigger, it would make a dandy fish club. Usually they look like small baseball bats, but imagine the stories when you whip this one out, and take the fight out a muskie with it.

  5. I had a leg injury a couple years ago and am currently in the process of working with buddy of mine on doing various 3D prints of my broken bones, the fixed ones, the surgical implants and both embedded in latex molds of my actual leg. I like the idea of being able to hand someone a 1 to 1 copy of my lower leg and let them get the sense of what it’s like to manipulate a lower leg with a broken tibia and fibula.

    Fascinating stuff

  6. @MollyMaguire: great link.

    @lerea: Thanks for the info. My surgeon is considered to be one of the best around. I am relatively young (49) and extremely active (Race bikes, alpine ski). According to the surgeon, I am a candidate for either but each has its pros and cons:

    – THR is slightly less invasive, slightly quicker recovery.
    – Revision in 15-20 years is easier if resurfaced now.
    – Affected leg is slightly shorter. THR, can completely compensate; Resurfacing not so much and could even end up shorter.
    – Resurfacing: issues with metal particles; can cause failure, requiring revision.

    Given my level of activity I would go for resurfacing, if not for concerns about leg length and particle sloughing.

  7. I wish you a speedy recovery. I had the same surgery and also a strange femoral head. 2 years out and I still have reminders that the hip is not perfect… BUT I am back to running (albeit slowly). Recovery has ups and downs and doesn’t always go in a straight line. Hope you feel better!

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