Jun 27, 2016 | By Alec

While 3D printers are increasingly finding their way into hospitals to produce medical models that can help surgeons prepare for complex procedures, a team of Australian cosmetic surgeons have begun using 3D printers in a completely different way. By using a 3D printed mirrored version of her right ear, they have outfitted Australian woman Colleen Murray with a silicon left ear prosthetic – 55 years after she lost most of her ear in a car crash.

After this remarkable procedure, Murray became the first person in Australia to receive a 3D printed ear, and it was a heartwarming moment when she first saw her reflection. Having lived with an embarrassing deformity for most of her life, she broke down crying as she looked in disbelief at the very realistic prosthetic attachment. “It’s wonderful,” she said, and the quality is in fact so good that you can hardly tell her ears apart.

While prosthetic ears are nothing new, this new 3D printed achievement does stand out. While previous prosthetics would simply be carved by hand, a team of medical scientists led by prosthetist Brenton Cadd instead made a 3D scan of Mrs. Murray’s existing ear. That scan was subsequently mirrored and 3D printed, which was finally used to make a silicone cast. “The shape is much better, the size is the same and that’s all due to the 3D printing,” dr. Cadd told Australian reporters.

To make it as life-like as possible, the ear prosthetic can even be worn with an earring, and is covered with make-up to achieve the desired skin-color. The prosthetic itself is held in place with magnetic titanium stumps that have been embedded in the patient’s head. “I was born with two ears and I've wanted two ears and you've done it for me,” Mrs Murray told her doctors while smiling from ear to ear. “Thank you very much.”

But according to prosthetist and Deakin University professor Dr Mazer Mohammed, this is just the beginning. 3D printing, he says, is creating new medical opportunities that were never thought possible. “There's only maybe one or two examples in the world as well so Australia could physically be leading the world in this capability,” he said. “What we offer with our techniques is a like-for-like, 100 percent reproduction of that patient's own anatomy. You just can't ask for better than that.”

While 3D bioprinting applications will still take a few years before they’re implemented, the prosthetists believe that the same 3D scanning and 3D printing technique can also be applied to other parts of the human body in the near future – enabling the creation of highly realistic prosthetics for arms, hands, legs and much more.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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