Mar.10, 2013 | By Anne van der Meij

Maxillofacial surgery (jaws and face surgery) is a profession. Hereby surgeons reconstruct bones in a patient’s skull. At the same time they are forced to rely on time-consuming trial and error to shape the metal implants. The longer the patient’s internal tissue is exposed, the greater the risk for tissue damage. One can understand that doing surgery gives a lot of pressure. Fortunately 3D printing technology offers a solution.

Professor Raphael Olszewski, a surgeon and head of the Université catholique de Louvain oral and maxillofacial surgery research lab in Belgium, and his team use paper-based 3D printing technology from Mcor Technologies to create physical models of patient’s bone structures. In this way they are able to shape implants before they start the patient’s surgery. This results in surgery times cut by an hour or more per patient and the patient can be quickly closed up and begin recovery.

With each procedure, we easily win an hour in the operating room, and that’s a major benefit for the patient,” says Professor Raphael Olszewski. “We open the patient up, slide in the device, check the fit, and start the patient’s recovery.”

Physical models of patient’s bone structures using paper-based 3D printing technology.

To create a 3D model, Olszewski’s team takes a CT or cone-beam CT scan of the patient and uses Maxilim software to export the section of bone they are interested in. Then the 3D physical mandible and skull models are produced by a Mcor Matrix paper-based 3D printer. This printer doesn’t use toxic fumes, lasers, airborne powder or toxic resins. No infiltration is required and after use models can be disposed of in the recycling bin. This makes the printer eco-friendly and relatively low priced compared to resin-based 3D printers. Olszewki estimates that a model made with paper-based 3D printer costs about half that of a resin-based part, and if they make models everyday, that’s a savings of more than 20,000 € per year.

The paper-based 3D printer has more potential applications says Olszewski. In addition to creating models of surgical patients, the team creates also models for the lab using the 3D printer. The models can serve as surgical guides to enable Olszewski’s team to constantly improve the success of the surgeries. These 3D printed paper models can be sterilised, notes Olszewski, that means surgeons will soon be bringing them into the operating room.

Look for 3D paper printing not only in surgery, but in medical equipment engineering and biomedical engineering. We’re really at the beginning.” says Olszewski. However 3D printing is already a powerful, affordable and accessible alternative to highly expensive neuronavigation systems that ensure accuracy in surgery.

 

 

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