Engineering to improve Orthopaedic Surgery
Before joining Imperial I served my implant design apprenticeship under Mike Tuke at Finsbury Orthopaedics. During this time it was also an honour to work with the great surgeon Mike Freeman. My research is inspired by the two Mikes – to apply the latest engineering technology to orthopaedic surgery.
This includes implant design that takes advantage of the latest technology in conventional materials like ceramics, or newer materials like hydrogels, or new manufacturing techniques like additive manufacture (AM). This also includes instrument design to find better ways of putting the implants in the body – most of the risks with joint replacement are associated with the surgeon putting them in.
I think there is massive potential for AM in the orthopaedic industry. The beauty of AM is that we can create load bearing materials with the same mechanical properties as bone – we can make Ti alloy lattice structures as low stiffness as 0.3 GPa, well within the range of cancellous bone. Even better, we have full control over anisotropy, and can create new ways to fix implants to bone – we have made a press-fit implant surface that has the fixation strength of a bone screw!
Sometimes to improve orthopaedic surgery, you simply need to understand better how healthy joints work. My interest here is to measure the function of the hip ligaments, their interaction with pathology (FAI) and function after surgical intervention. These ligaments create some really elegant structures, with fibre directions indicative of their function. One of these structures is the Zona Orbicularis which only appears in extension and disappears in flexion. Nobody knows why, but it’s important to find out because this function may not be restored after surgery, even after keyhole joint preserving surgery.