Boise State student's 3-D scanning technique could help improve hip replacement longevity

Posted at 6:19 PM, Dec 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-04 13:06:19-05

Katie Hollar is a graduate student at Boise State improving lives by studying and scanning plastic, in a much faster way. In collaboration with BSU advisors, she created a 3-D optical scanning technique that helps identify possible problem areas in joint implants, like hip replacements 

"Dark blue liners indicate high spots of wear so that's pretty dangerous because if it continues to wear over time, it can eventually crack the liner and cause failure of the implant," said Hollar. 

Her scanning and mapping are more efficient than what's already out there. Conventional methods used to examine implants take between 90 minutes and four hours. Hers takes 20 minutes.

"You place the hip liner in there, and it has some common geometry to allow the liner to align at different time points as it's spinning," said Hollar. 

 According to data, more than 330,000 hip replacements are performed each year in the U.S. The number is expected to double by 2030 thanks to modern technology nearly. 

"Longevity has always been a concern in joint replacement," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Bradley Daines. 

3-D scanners have been used to study wear in many areas, like in car parts and even dentistry, but this application is entirely new. Improvements over the last fifteen years to the design of joint implants have extended the life expectancy of the technology — one of the biggest improvements being the new plastics. 

"What's in between is a bumper pad made of plastic, and that's a fancy plastic called polyethylene that's been treated to help it last longer," said Daines. 

Using Katie's scanning technique to study the plastic can potentially help find ways to improve the device materials, which can save thousands of people from undergoing additional surgery and preventing bone loss.

"Historically we used to tell people that ten years was a good joint replacement outcome, but now with improvements in materials, the longevity of joint replacement is improving," said Hollar.