Feb. 16, 2015 | By Alec

War-torn regions are generally home to the absolute worst humanity has to offer, but sometimes bring forth heartwarming acts of human kindness as well. That’s exactly what’s going on at the Israeli-Syrian border, where Israeli doctors are doing everything they can to help the Syrian victims of the countless atrocities taking place in their country, even going as far as producing very expensive 3D printed implants to help them.

For while Syria is very far away from most of our beds, it is just around the corner for Israel. As the BBC recently revealed, as least 1500 Syrians have travelled to Israel to receive medical treatment. While this doesn’t sound too weird – people flee from war zones all the time – something of an unofficial state of war has existed between these two countries since the Six-Day-War between Israel and its surrounding Arab countries in 1967. Even today, there is something of a no-man’s-land between the two nations, and especially Syrian propaganda is unrelenting in its attacks on Israel.

And yet, wounded Syrians are finding their way to Israel in increasing numbers. While not exactly known how the process works, wounded Syrians find their way to the border on the Golan Heights, and somehow end up in the hands of Israeli soldiers who transport them to hospitals – most of them go to Haifa.

Recently, that exact trip was made by an unconscious 23-year-old called Mohammed, a farmer from Deraa – a hotbed of any Assad-protests. While his identity has purposefully been kept hidden – not many Syrians will approve of someone being helped by the Israeli’s – he arrived in Haifa with a terrible injury: a projectile from a Syrian jet fighter had completely shattered his jaw, leaving his face a bloody mixture of destroyed tissue.

Unable to eat or drink, he was brought to Israel in November 2014. Fortunately for him, one of the hospital’s maxillofacial surgeons, Dr Yoav Leiser, had just returned from a fellowship in Germany, where he studied Patient Specific Implants (PSIs) for eye sockets, jaws, and cheek bones, relying on titanium manufacturing and 3D printing. Leiser set to work on Mohammed’s horrible disfigurement, and developed a 3D printed jaw replacement that quickly put the young man on a road to recovery.

CT images of the patient

3D reconstructions with the jaw implant.

Now 3D printing implants is a complicated business as it is, but the jaw is particularly difficult to reproduce. After all, it’s completely filled moving parts that need to work perfectly – humans can get by with a limping leg, but they need to eat and drink. Leiser and his team therefore relied on CT scanning and 3D printing to produce a 3D printed titanium ‘Patient Specific Implant’ (or PSI), and the procedure proved to be very successful. Surgery was performed by Leiser and Professor Adi Rachmiel, director of Rambam’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. As Leiser told reporters, "We succeeded in returning his human quality".

The 3D printed prosthetic.

3D printing proved to play a critical role in this case, as traditionally made PSI’s for jaws are an absolute nightmare. Consisting of numerous individual plates that need to be screwed together, it's an arduous process to make and fit. 3D printing instead produced just a single part, that could be developed before surgery rather than during. However, as Mohammed doesn’t actually exist in the Israeli medical system, they had to greatly rely on statistical models as well. The 3D printed implant has been developed by the Israeli company AB Dental, who specialize in produce dental implants. While most of their products are traditionally put together, no expensive was spared to save the Syrian’s life, and fortunately AB Dental also owned a Stratasys 3D printer.

Three months later, Mohammed has been doing well. Soon after the implant was attached to his jaw, Mohammed was able to eat and drink unassisted. While the procedure isn’t finished yet (his teeth need to be fully repaired too), Mohammed has already been smuggled back to his family who likely thought him dead. However, he has vowed to return to Israel to complete the process.

Following this great success, Israeli doctors are already planning to repeat the process on three other patients. And as there’s no end in sight in the disastrous Syrian/Iraqi civil war (it has just entered its fifth year already), many more civilian casualties will likely follow. Fortunately, 3D printing is proving to be an excellent medical instrument for operations involving heavy tissue and bone damage.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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alvaro wrote at 2/16/2015 8:49:59 PM:

Everything is possible ! Great news!

Julio wrote at 2/16/2015 6:56:16 PM:

Great! Don't want to get political here, but I don't imagine that the other way arround. Israel truly seeks the peace. Am Ysrael Chai!

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