Nov.13, 2013

Surgeons in Swansea, south Wales, are using 3D printing technology to recreate the severely injured face of a road accident victim.

Using CT scan images of the unaffected side of the biker's face, the surgeons has created a mirror image which could enable perfect facial reconstruction. The images is being used to create titanium implants using 3D printing.

A computer rendering of the damaged skull Image: Dominic Eggbeer, Sean Peel and Peter Evans

This method is thought to be a pioneering operation which will restore the symmetry of a man's face - using new parts produced by a printer.

The work is considered so groundbreaking and radical it already features in an exhibition at London's Science Museum - before the operation itself has been carried out.

The futuristic work is led by consultant maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar, at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, run by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

The project is the work of the Centre of Applied Reconstructive Technologies in Surgery (Cartis), established in 2006 as a partnership between Morriston Hospital's Maxillofacial Unit and Product Design and Research (PDR) based at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Cartis aims to make Wales a world leader in the research, development and application of advanced medical technologies in surgery.

A perfect fit

Mr Sugar worked with Peter Evans, a reconstructive scientist and Maxillofacial Laboratory Services manager, and PDR's Sean Peel and Ffion O'Malley to virtually plan the complex surgery, which will involve repositioning the patient's facial bones.

Normally, reconstructive implants are made by bending metal plates into the right shape. But this patient's injury was especially challenging. "The bones in my patient's face, especially his left eye socket, were crushed. Reconstructive surgery to rebuild his face was going to be extremely hard." said Mr Sugar.

Traditional bent metal plates are unlikely to be an exact fit. Image: Morriston Hospital Maxillofacial Unit, Swansea

They used an x-ray CT scan to create minutely detailed three-dimensional images to design the bespoke implants. Planning the reconstruction on the computer screen first allows Mr Sugar to practise the surgery in advance. "We can also design guides to use in surgery that tell me exactly where I need to cut and position the bones."

The computer rendering of the multi-part implant. Image: Dominic Eggbeer, Sean Peel and Peter Evans

The guides and implants are being produced in medical-grade titanium in Belgium, at one of the world's few specialist 3D printing facilities.

3D printed guides and implants. Image: Science Museum

"The multi-part implant we designed was an exact fit, so surgery was quicker and a much better result achieved." said Mr Sugar.

Mr Evans added: "We have done everything up to the point of surgery. The concept of the operation has been virtually designed and we hope to do the work very soon. The patient's facial symmetry will be restored so he should be back to normal as far as his facial looks are concerned."

Discussions are now taking place to plan when the surgery itself will take place. The identity of the patient concerned has not been revealed.

The Swansea project is featured in exhibition 3D: Printing The Future at the Science Museum in London until July 1, 2014.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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