Apr 11, 2018 | By David

A start-up company affiliated with Purdue University has recently developed a new technique that could revolutionize the field of oral surgery. Starfish Engineering LLC is now seeking funding to build a prototype imaging device that will use light in order to build up a detailed image of arteries and lesions in the tissue in the roof of the mouth. The company has made use of 3D printing in order to build a replica mouth that simulates biological tissue.

When performing surgical operations, surgeons working in a patient’s mouth will use the greater palatine artery as a kind of landmark to navigate around, and they need to know where it is to avoid damaging it or its surrounding nerves. Studies have shown, however, that there can often be a discrepancy of up to 4 millimeters between where surgeons believe the artery is and where it actually is. This seemingly minor disparity can lead to errors that can cause a variety of complications and injuries, compounding a patient’s suffering and even making things worse.

Alongside increased surgery times, visits and patient discomfort, more serious problems include the risk of severe haemorrhaging. Damaging or severing the artery will cause major blood loss which can be hard to stop, especially in the event that the artery retracts into the bony upper canal of the mouth, making it extremely difficult to access. Surgeons tend to avoid the area where the greater palatine artery might be altogether, but the range of possible places where it can be varies depending on the patient.

The start-up’s new method will use a light source and optical imaging technology in order to create a detailed 3D map of the mouth, which will allow for improved accuracy during surgery. It will enable surgeons to pinpoint the location of the greater palatine artery in real time, during the operation. Not only this, it will also show up lesions that might be invisible to the naked eye.

''This approach has the potential to reduce complications during surgery,'' said Brian Bentz, Starfish’s chief executive officer. ''It can help improve the accuracy of incisions...The greater palatine artery is filled with blood so it will absorb more photons. You can use that contrast in absorption to determine the location of that artery''.

A 3D printed phantom of the mouth was used to test and calibrate the imaging technique, with a texture that simulated soft biological tissue. After successful trials, the approach now has the potential to be used in a range of oral surgeries, as well as sinus and ridge augmentations, operations on the greater palatine nerve block, and soft tissue biopsies. It will also prove useful for dental surgeons carrying out work such as fitting dental implants or wisdom teeth removal.

(All images, source: Purdue)

The technology was created by Bentz and Kevin Webb, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, along with Vaibhav Gaind and Timothy C. Wu. They are now hoping to build a working prototype for use on real patients. Their company, Starfish Engineering LLC, has received support from the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. Professionals at the Foundry help Purdue innovators to create start-ups.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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