While you won’t be able to compare 3D printers on the market designed for home use and find something that will work in a medical setting, there’s no denying that the technology goes hand in hand with saving lives and curing disease. One of the most amazing stories in quite sometime revolves around a volunteer firefighter who received the world’s most extensive facial transplant with the help of 3D printing.
It was only a few days before the horrors of 9/11. Patrick Hardison was doing his job as a volunteer firefighter on a residential house fire.
He entered the home on a rescue search, but the burning structure began to collapse around him. The roof caved in, crushing Hardison under burning timber and igniting his facemask.
The fire took a horrible toll on the young firefighter, causing him to lose his eyelids, ears, lips, hair and most of his nose. He also suffered severe burns on his neck, shoulders and upper torso.
Lucky to escape with his life, Hardison eventually underwent 70 different surgeries in an attempt to restore his face, but none were more than marginally successful. He was left with almost nothing of his face, and unable to resume a normal life.
One of Hardison’s fellow church members sought the aid of Dr. Rodriguez, a pioneering surgeon in transplant surgery and well known for using 3D printing.
The surgery itself was fraught with risk. Hardison actually only had a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery, much less coming out of it with his face rebuilt.
It was an incredibly complex surgery, and was only made possible by using 3D modeling, 3D printing guides customized to Hardison’s face and lots of time. It actually took 26 hours to complete, and required two operating rooms (one for Hardison and the surgical team, and another for the surgical team operating on the body of the facial donor – David Rodebaugh, who died from injuries sustained in an accident).
After three months, Hardison is well on his way to recovery. He is still going through physical therapy and there’s a long way to go yet in learning to use his new mouth, eyes and throat, but the surgery itself was an incredible success.
This is just one more example of how 3D printing is coming to play an essential role in more and more surgeries, providing better results for patients and improving lives around the world.