Fwd: Groundbreaking Surgical Procedure Uses 3D Printing to Repair Injuries

Photo BY MELISSA GOLDINDoctors at a United Kingdom hospital have broken surgical boundaries by reconstructing the face of a motorcycle-crash survivor using 3D-printing technology. Stephen Power, 29, suffered severe injuries while returning home with friends in Wales nearly two years ago. He broke both of his cheekbones, eye sockets and his upper jaw, in addition to fracturing his skull. Power also broke both of his arms, and banged his right leg up so badly that it needed a bone graft. Power's life was saved thanks to emergency surgery, but doctors feared doing further damage to the sight in his left eye, which had mostly recovered. This meant that they were not able to put his left cheekbone back in the right place, and did not attempt to reconstruct the bones around the eye's socket. "The result was that his cheekbone was too far out and his eye was sunk in and dropped," maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar said in a statement. Before and After IMAGE: ABERTAWE BRO MORGANNWG UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD In an effort to restore the symmetry in Power's appearance, doctors refractured the bones in his face, and returned them to their correct position before inserting medical-grade titanium implants. These, along with the guides and plates used in the first part of the procedure, were 3D-printed. "Without this advanced technology, it's freehand," Sugar said. "You have to guess where everything goes. This technology allows us to be far more precise and get a better result for the patient." The result was life-changing for Power, whose confidence had taken a hit since the accident."I'll be able to do everyday things — go and see people, walk in the streets, just go to any public areas," he said in a statement before the final surgery. The procedure was a joint effort between Morriston Hospital and the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Other medical advances made possible by 3D printing include an elastic membrane that could help predict cardiac disorders, and a fabricated lung splint that saved the life of an infant. Power's procedure presents a technique that could be used to treat many other patients. "The ultimate aim is to undertake planning and be able to use custom-made guides and implants on a routine basis," Sugar said.Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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