Nov 8, 2016 | By Tess

From the young age of 6, Liu Li has suffered from osteoma on her forehead (a benign bone tumor growing on her skull) and has undergone various operations and treatments to keep the condition under control. Now, at the age of 22, the patient has the chance to lead a regular life thanks to a 3D printed titanium skull implant.

Looking at Liu Li now, you’d be hard pressed to find a deformity or sign of osteoma. Over the course of her life, however, the young woman was not only diagnosed with the condition, but underwent two surgical removals of the benign bone growth on the right side of her forehead. The first when she was 6, and the second at the age of 11, when the growth came back and had to be resected.

Only a few years after the second surgery, the osteoma returned and an exhausted Liu Li began to lose hope. Not only that, but the young woman was confronted with physical insecurities because of her condition, and always tried to cover her forehead and face.

Fortunately, Liu Li was finally given some hope by a team of doctors from the Southwest Hospital in China, who suggested that a 3D printed skull implant could be the solution. Li was examined by Associate Professor Chu Wei-hua from the Department of Neurosurgery, who explained that Liu Li’s osteoma was located in the forehead region and was causing pressure on the patient’s brain tissues as it continued to grow. This meant that removing the bone growth was crucial to Li's health, as the tumor could begin cause severe neurological dysfunction.

Additionally, the doctors decided that in order to reduce the chances of the tumor coming back, they were going to remove the patient’s affected skull area, which was located in her forehead and around her eye. The only real solution for skull repair for this particular case was to 3D print a custom-fitted skull implant for the 22-year-old.

Making the custom skull implant was a relatively challenging task for the team of doctors, who had to design the 3D model based on CT scans of Liu Li. Because of her tumorous skull, the doctors had to carefully reverse engineer the model and use image mirroring to recreate the right side of her skull based on the left side. The final skull prosthesis, which was 3D printed out of titanium, measured 6 cm x 9 cm.

The surgery itself consisted of first grinding away Liu Li’s orbital and zygomatic bone lesions, making sure to match the skull cutaway to the 3D printed implant in a precise way. When this was achieved, the 3D printed skull prosthesis was implanted and secured using titanium nails. The final step of the surgery once the 3D printed skull was implanted was to suture the patient’s skin. According to the surgical team, Liu Li has been recovering well since the surgery, and has been discharged.

As 3D printing continues to revolutionize the medical industry, new and groundbreaking surgeries and procedures seem to be happening on a regular basis, with Liu Li’s 3D printed skull implant one of the first of its kind. The procedure was fully funded by a national research group looking to make advances with 3D printing in the medical field.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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