Cancer patient gets 3D-printed pelvis, new lease on life

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 7:52 AM EST
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KANSAS CITY, Kansas (KCTV/Gray News) - A first of its kind surgery at the University of Kansas Health System is giving a man a second shot at life.

The history-making procedure could provide hope for some cancer patients in the metro area, KCTV reported.

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

“We moved out here in October of last year,” Curt Melin said.

“He’s built a chicken house. There’s nothing he can’t do or won’t try,” Alicia Melin added.

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

“Really, it’s a new lease on life,” Curt Melin explained. “It’s a very rare cancer. I think they said it happens in less than 4 percent of people that have cancer.”

A soccer coach for 10 years in Blue Valley, Curt Melin became concerned with 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 was acceptable to me. The response to that was there’s got to be something else,” he said.

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

Curt Melin walks with the help of a crutch with his wife Alicia. Melin got a partial 3D-printed...
Curt Melin walks with the help of a crutch with his wife Alicia. Melin got a partial 3D-printed pelvis to help save his leg after a rare cancer diagnosis.(Source: KCTV/CNN)

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

He found that solution in a 3D printer. Sweeney made a plan to implant a 3D-printed partial pelvis into Curt Melin. 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 Melin said.

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

It was a big risk that came with a big reward. He 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,” Sweeney said. “It’s absolutely incredible what you can do with it, because if you can imagine it, you can 3D print it. And if you can image 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 Melin added. “It was the best-case scenario ... very, very grateful for that.”

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

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

While Curt Melin had to wait a weeks for a company to make his 3D pelvis and send it to the 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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