Jun 20, 2015 | By Simon

Although we’re becoming more used to hearing about medical-related 3D printing stories, there is still a lot of uncharted territory left to explore.  

While some methods - such as using a combination of 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies have been used to create a variety of 1:1 replicas for surgeons to study prior to a complex surgical procedure - are becoming increasingly common, other applications for the technology are still in their infancy.  

More recently, the technology was used to create a 3D printed jaw prosthesis for a 32-year-old Australian man; a first for the country.  

The man, Richard Stratton, was born with a rare deformity that has made chewing food incredibly painful - particularly over the past few years.  Born without a joint on the left side of his jaw, the deformity hadn’t caused any function-based problems for the majority of his life.     

"I had always had a tilted jaw and a crooked smile - my family used to joke about it," he said. "But in the past couple of years I started to get horrible pain on the opposite side of my face – all the muscles started tightening up and I couldn't open my mouth wide."

After a series of headaches and sharp, stinging pains in his mouth whenever he chewed, he knew it was time to go have it looked at.  

In late 2014, Stratton went to see a dentist who recommended taking an X-ray to take a closer look.  It was here that Stratton realized he had been living his life all this time with the deformity and was a candidate for a 3D printed jaw prostesis.  

To create the 3D printed prosthesis, a Melbourne University biomedical engineering team, led by researcher David Ackland, scanned Stratton's skull and jaw before creating a 1:1 replica 3D printed titanium model that they could then use to test the fit of the artificial joint before committing to an invasive surgery.  The high strength, low weight and high corrosion resistance possessed by titanium and titanium alloys have helped make it one of the most reliable metals for use in surgical implants.  

In addition to physically measuring the potential fit of the prosthetic, the team also ran a series of computer simulation tests to ensure the at the prosthesis wouldn’t get in the way of Stratton’s muscle movements that are used for chewing, talking and other movements of the mouth.  

Once it was determined through both the physical prototype as well as the computer simulations that the prosthesis would work, Stratton underwent a five-hour reconstructive surgery to install the 3D printed jaw last month.  In total, two 3D printed parts were screwed on to the bone to form the missing ball and socket joint.   

"We are at the crossroads of an exciting era, where an increased use of 3D technology will see customised medical devices become an integral part of healthcare," said oral and maxillofacial surgeon George Dimitroulis.

"The beauty of this particular joint itself is that it was designed in Australia and manufactured [by an Australian firm] ... and not just manufactured in the common sense, but 3D printed," he said.

"It really makes the fit truly patient-fitted, truly customised, as opposed to 'we're close enough' and it's something that I think will become the norm in the future as technology [becomes] cheaper."

According to Stratton, not only can he open his mouth wider than ever before, but the pain from chewing is also gone.

"I now have a very symmetrical smile. People have been really politely saying that it's a huge improvement," he laughed. "I didn't notice that I didn't have a chin before, but people are now saying, 'Wow, you've got such a great chin!'"

"I want to ask them for a copy of my skull," he said. "I'd love to put it on my bookcase."



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Imraan Desai wrote at 1/30/2016 4:35:35 PM:

Great article! whats the cost and how much time it takes to have it done complete ? Thanks Your response is appreciated

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