The more severe a bone fracture, the higher the risk it will lead to osteomyelitis, an infection that occurs when bacteria contaminates damaged bones protruding from the skin or contaminates the fixation hardware used to realign them.
Osteomyelitis can lead to sepsis and, in extreme cases, amputation.
Current treatments require two surgeries. First, doctors remove the defective bone in a procedure called debridement and insert cement beads filled with antibiotics in an effort to eliminate any remaining bacteria. After a week or two, a second surgery is done to remove the beads and insert a bone graft to initiate healing.
And yet, even after all of this, notes Ryan Trombetta, the bacteria can still survive in a biofilm state that is resistant to antibiotics.
Trombetta, a PhD student in the lab of Hani Award, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, took first place at the University's recent Falling Walls competition, when he described how 3D printed bone grafts containing antibiotics and biofilm dispersing agents could not only eliminate all of the bacteria, but do so in a single step.
The advantage is that we can generate precise geometries off of a patient's CAT scan that can then be used to produce a biocompatible graft with 3D printing, Trombetta explained.