Oct 24, 2017 | By Julia

A woman from Swansea in Wales has become the first person in the world to be fitted with a 3D printed jaw.

Retail worker Debbie Hawkins had developed a tumour in her lower jawbone that was growing at an alarmingly fast rate, to the point of nearly breaking the bone. After a lengthy consultation process at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital, it became clear that conventional techniques wouldn’t cut it. A more innovative approach was needed.

Putting together all the resources they could muster, the Hospital’s surgical team developed an ingenious method of reconstructing Hawkins’ jaw via 3D printing—the first of its kind in the world.

Using 3D scanning technology to plan the operation in precise detail, doctors set to work rebuilding Hawkins’ jaw bone through a combination of traditional bone grafts and 3D printed titanium plates customized to fit the Swansea patient’s individual anatomy.

“When they told me what the procedure involved I was scared at first,” Hawkins told press. “I really didn't know what to expect. But what they have done, and the aftercare I have received, has been absolutely amazing.”

After spending two weeks in the hospital after the operation, Hawkins was sent home. She was then able to return to work within three months.

Said to be the first of its kind ever performed, the Morriston Hospital technique is a vast improvement over traditional methods, which involve removing a length of fibula from the patient’s leg in order to replace sections of jaw. Despite its widespread use, this traditional method can comprise the shape of the patient’s jaw line, resulting in the jaw being set too low to accommodate dental implants.

Morriston’s technique, on the other hand, used Hawkins’ CT images to engineer an anatomically precise 3D printed titanium plate which holds the fibula bone in place, maintaining the natural aesthetic shape of the jawline. Cutting guides created by the team ensured that the bone taken from the fibula matched the removed jaw section exactly.

According to Peter Llewelyn Evans, Maxillofacial Laboratory Services manager at Morriston Hospital, "The titanium implant fits the patient's jaw perfectly without the surgeon having to do any adjustment."

The technique proved so effective that the Hospital team has since adopted it into its roster of treatments. Hawkins’ consultant surgeon Madhav Kittur noted that five procedures have already been carried out at Morriston, with a sixth currently in the planning stage.

“It has taken away the uncertainty,” Kittur added. “We know exactly what is going to happen before we go into theater as everything is computer planned.”

Efficiency is among the many benefits of the new procedure: where the traditional operation would take between eight and 10 hours, Morriston’s new technique saves up to two hours of that time. “This is a big advance,” said Kittur. “It’s better aesthetically, the patient is under anaesthetic for less time, and recovery is better.”

Hawkins agrees. "Now and again I do have a few problems with my speech because I'm having to make certain jaw movements," she added. "But I'm feeling much better. I get my odd days but otherwise I'm getting stronger all the time."

Previous 3D printed jaw procedures have involved making prostheses from 3D printed molds. Hawkins is the first patient to have actual 3D printed parts fitted to her face.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Adam wrote at 10/24/2017 8:14:39 PM:

I think Xilloc has been 3d printing HA scaffolds for a few years now and could also have been used here. It's hard to replace such a large chunk of bone, maybe she wasn't a good candidate. The traditional approach may still fare better over time, even if the initial results were better.

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