KC-area man becomes first person in Kansas to receive 3D-printed pelvis

Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 4:52 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCTV) - A first-of-its-kind surgery at the University of Kansas Health System is giving a local man a second shot at life. The history-making procedure could provide hope for some cancer patients in the metro.

Curt and Alicia Melin just recently moved to Lone Jack, Mo., from Overland Park, Kan. It’s been an adjustment as they learn to take care of their new 5 acres of land.

“We moved out here in October of last year,” Curt said. “He’s built a chicken house…there’s nothing he can’t do. Or won’t try,” Alicia added.

But it’s been an even bigger adjustment as Curt learns how to do it all -- with his new 3D-printed titanium pelvis.

“Really it’s a new lease on life,” Curt explained. “It’s a very rare cancer. Less than 4 percent of people that have cancer.”

A soccer coach for 10 years in Blue Valley, Curt became concerned with the pain that would flare up on the field. After visiting a doctor, he learned he had chondrosarcoma of his pelvis and hip.

“So the option was basically they take off your leg or take off your leg…and neither option wasn’t acceptable to me…the response to that was there’s got to be something else.”

As a father of five and an active guy, Curt refused to lose a limb.

That had his doctor, Dr. Kyle Sweeney with the University of Kansas Health, searching high and low for another option to save Curt’s leg and life.

He found that solution in a 3D printer. Dr. Sweeney made a plan to implant a 3D-printed partial pelvis into curt. He would meld a CT scan and an MRI together using precise imaging.

Such a surgery had never been done before in the state of Kansas.

“I immediately jumped on it and I said, well if it’s the first one that KU ever did I’ll be your guy,” Curt told KCTV5.

“It sounded crazy, but it was neat to watch,” Alicia explained.

It was a big one that came with a big reward. Curt is officially the first patient in Kansas to receive a 3D-printed pelvis. He can now walk using a crutch.

“That is a really fantastic feeling, Dr. Sweeney said. “It’s absolutely incredible what you can do with it…cause if you can imagine it you can 3D print it…and if you can imagine it…you can recreate anatomy that’s specific to an individual.”

Such advancements will only become more common in the future. There are options now with technology,” Curt added. “It was the best-case scenario….very very grateful for that.”

Curt’s goal this next year is to graduate from a crutch to a cane.

Dr. Sweeney said this is a great example of the future of medicine.

While Curt had to wait weeks for a company to make his 3D pelvis and send it to KU Hospital, years from now that might not be the case.

The hope is to have 3D printers right inside hospitals. It would make such surgeries more readily available – and cut down on wait times when patients are in dire need.

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