Implants used in reconstructive surgery can be inflexible
Australians spend more than $1 billion each year on surgical procedures and treatments, with liposuction, breast augmentation and rhinoplasty topping the list. While many of these are elective surgeries that don't treat a medical condition, reconstructive surgery is a vital part of recovery from traumatic accidents, aggressive tumour removal, or other debilitating situations.
Surgical implants used in these procedures are often made from non-porous, inflexible materials that can't be shaped or moulded once surgeons are in the operating theatre. This can be challenging when surgery involves the highly individual features of a face.
Applying new processes to a known material
We joined forces with Australian medical devices company Anatomics to develop a new type of polyethylene, or plastic, implant specifically designed for repairing and augmenting bones in the highly individualised features of the head, skull and face.
The team began by using a known material in polyethylene, which has a history of being approved for use in the human body. They then took inspiration from manufacturing processes used in structural fibres and mouldings and biomedical scaffolds.
A new plastic implant with more bone-like features
The new implant, called PoreStar, the first in a new class of implant material with bone-like architecture. It's named after the star shaped particle used in its manufacturing process to create an open pore structure that resembles real bone.
The higher porosity of PoreStar means it's more malleable and flexible, so surgeons can actually shape and mould the implants in the operating theatre.
The implants are designed from 3D CT scans, so they're customised for individual patients, which can improve surgical outcomes.
As a result of the new product, Anatomics has set up a manufacturing facility for the implants in Melbourne.
The team is now looking toward the opening of the Biomedical Materials Transformation Facility a $46 million initiative that will bring our researchers together with Monash University and 20 industry partners to focus on taking biomedical products from the bench to prototype, and ultimately to market.