A BIRCHWOOD dad is looking forward to getting back on his feet again thanks to the help of a 3D printer. 

Tim Collier became the first patient at Fairfield Independent Hospital, and one of the first in the north west, to benefit from the revolutionary technology for knee replacement surgery. 

The procedure began more than two months ago with the team in St Helens producing a 3D representation of the knee following a CT scan which is then sent to America to build a mould made to the specific design using 3D printing technology. 

The 3D engineers also print out the jibs, a small bespoke plastic instrument that slot on to the knee and shows exactly where the bone has to be cut, improving accuracy and meaning fewer cuts are needed. 

Advantages of the high-tech op include an implant designed to match the patient’s unique size and shape for optimal fit, the potential for a more 'natural feeling' knee and should mean a simplified surgical procedure.

Fifty-two-year-old Tim said he has been delighted with results so far and is now waiting for the same operation on his right knee too after years of playing sport in his youth lead to him being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both knees. 

The Bupa employee, who had funded the operation funded by his employers, added: "I couldn't walk very far or stand for long periods of time and it was very painful. 

"It restricted me from doing things I liked including going out for a walk on nice days. 

"Two of my sons are involved in IT and when I showed them on the website what I was going to have done they were all over it like geeks!

"The consultant has been very pleased with the progress I have been making and there's quite a lot of bend in my knee and I've been told to start walking again without my crutches which I wouldn't be able to do under normal circumstances. 

"I feel like a bit of a pioneer."

Mr Ravindra Gudena, who performed the procedure, said the implant is a significant advancement over the current available systems. 

He added: "ConforMIS Patient-specific knee replacement has its own unique advantages, including bone preservation, reduced blood loss and a quicker recovery. 

"The patients can get to the activity levels they used to with no limitation as the ConforMIS Knee replacement has a natural knee feel."

Currently this service is only available to private and self-paying patients at Fairfield Independent Hospital and anyone considering this treatment should contact their medical insurance provider and GP.