May 28, 2015 | By Simon

While it’s become quite apparent that various additive manufacturing techniques have helped lead a new frontier in the health and medical industries, it appears that China has been among those who are most interested in utilizing 3D printing into various medical applications.  

In 2015 alone, we’ve seen how Chinese doctors have used 3D printing to create everything from a new 3D printed shoulder for a 27-year-old patient to a model of a 60-year-old woman’s kidney to study prior to a tumor removal surgery.  Now, Chinese doctors can add one more type of surgery to the growing list of surgeries that have been performed with the aid of 3D printing: craniofacial surgery or otherwise known as chin surgery.  

The patient, Ms. Lin from Taichung, Taiwan, decided on the eve of her 26th birthday that she wanted to undergo surgery to help create what she thought was the perfect chin.  Unfortunately, Ms. Lin was born with a chin that was too small for her face and had tried many other methods throughout her lifetime to try and correct it including the application of hyaluronic acid - all of which didn’t work.

Prior to her birthday, Ms. Lin had contacted Dr. Liu Jiawei of Beauty Center of China Medical University about the possibility of using plastic surgery to fix her chin.  The surgery - which was the most expensive option of them all - was to be a birthday gift for herself for her 26th birthday.  After meeting with Dr. Liu Jiawei, Ms. Lin learned that if the surgery was performed using traditional surgical practices, there wouldn’t be any guarantee that the surgery would work.  However, with the help of 3D printing, it would be much easier for the doctor’s to perform a surgery with more lasting results … albeit it would be more expensive.  

According to Dr. Liu Jiawei, traditional chin surgery practices are the most prone to dispute because patients often aren’t satisfied with the results.  Although computer simulations are performed to help take into account facial tissue and bone structure properties, biological responses ultimately help shape what the final outcome is.  Alternatively, including the use of 3D printing in the process allows for surgeons to be more agile during the surgical process as well as giving them more detailed information to work from before even starting the process.  Additionally, the use of computer imaging and 3D printing can help shorten the operation time and better determine the final outcome of the surgery.

With the help of 3D printing technology, Ms. Lin's recent chin surgery was a complete success. Thanks to 3D printed assistance, Dr. Jiawei was able to push her jawbone forward by 0.5 com and down by 1.2, in an effort to create a more natural extension and a more ideal ratio between the woman's lips, chin and nose. Since the surgery, the ratio between Ms. Lin's nose and lips, as well as between the length of her lips and chin, are now a 1:1.

According to the surgeon, Dr. Jiawei, orthognathics surgeries like this one were usually risky, as they could result in damage to the jaw nerve of bilateral cheek. Fortunately, assistance from 3D printing technology has enabled doctors to not only see the result of the appearance of the shape in advance, but is also helping them to clearly see the blood vessels affected by the procedure. It ensures that the operation proceeds smoothly and safely, while even cutting the operation time from the original three hours to two hours.

Patient Ms. Lin had also undergone analog surgery before the real surgery to fully get to grip with the entire process, the risks involved and the realistic results. After the surgery she reportedly not only ended up with her dreamed V-shaped face, but her double chin has also disappeared. In short, a complete success.

But of course such a surgery isn't cheap, and 3D printing itself makes it even more expensive. Making plastic chin alone cost her 100,000 TWD (around 3,266 USD), while 3D printing technology adds somewhere from ten to twenty percent to the total price. But of course the reduced risks are a very pleasant result. Dr. Liu Jiawei further emphasized that the advantages of 3D printing are constantly being developed and could be more extensively applied to the field of plastic surgery in the near future. He expects that all the surgeries related to forehead, chin, square faces and other related operations are set to benefit from this new technology.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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