Mar 30, 2017 | By Tess

A team of Australian surgeons has successfully implanted a 3D printed maxilla jaw bone into a patient. The patient in question, Susie Robinson, suffered severe injuries to her face after a car accident, and only now, after many years of operations and treatments, can she smile again as she once did.

At the young age of 20, Robinson was driving her friend’s vehicle when it went off the road and crashed into a tree. Fortunately, she survived the accident, though she did suffer some serious injuries, including breaking her jaw in three places, breaking her hand, losing several teeth, as well as several cuts and lacerations.

After being rushed to the hospital, Robinson was made to undergo many treatment processes, such as implanting a bridge to help her jaw heal. Eventually, however, doctors saw that this fix was ineffective, as her jaw bone was continuing to disintegrate, and decided that an implant would have to be put in place.

As Robinson explains, the doctors took a bone graft from her hip and implanted it into her jaw, and used her own plasma and pegs to keep it in place. This implantation process turned out to be arduous and it reportedly took Robinson almost a year to properly recover from it (not to mention, she was without many teeth for months).

Ultimately, this bone implant failed also, as it cracked and had to be removed during a follow-up procedure last year. It was at this point that Robinson was put in contact with Dr. George Dimitroulis from Epworth Healthcare, the state of Victoria’s largest not-for-profit private health care group. It was he who suggested that a 3D printed implant might be the best solution.

As Robinson told Australian press, “When he said to me 'We are going to 3D print you a new maxilla and then add some implants,’ I'm not actually sure what I thought. I probably just walked out in a daze.”

According to Dr. Dimitroulis, a 3D printed maxilla would offer Robinson a simple one-step process that would avoid many of the complications and much of the discomfort of her previous operations. "You basically come in, we'll do the surgery which takes under an hour and then you'll be home on the same day with a new set of teeth,” he explained.

(Images: ABC news)

The surgery itself involved only a few steps: first, making an incision in the patient’s gum to expose her jawbone, then inserting the custom-fit 3D printed titanium implant, and then sewing her gums back over the implant (while leaving two open points where the dentures could be screwed in).

All in all, the 3D printed implant surgery took about an hour, and the patient was already smiling and responsive within a hour of its completion. And she had lots to smile about: not only was her jaw restored, but the whole operation only cost about $8,000 (which isn’t much compared to the estimated $100,000 she had already spent on her various treatments and surgical procedures).

"It's amazing," she said. "I'm just an everyday person, I'm not particularly special, so for that technology to be available for people like me, well, that's fantastic for everyday people.”

Susie Robinson is one of several patients who have seen the benefits of bespoke 3D printed implants in recent years, and she surely won’t be the last.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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