Today’s headlines and 3D printing resources are chock-full of references to the technology’s impact on the world of medicine. It seems like there’s a new significant advance made every week somewhere in the world.
The hits just keep coming, too – a young man’s facial reconstruction surgery was made possible thanks to 3D printing, and there’s not a single scar left behind.
The New Surgical Technique
Bad things happen to good people. That’s the way of the world, all too often.
Alex, a 19-year-old, was the victim of a serious beating that left him with his face partially crushed and possibly disfigured for life. Multiple surgeries were undertaken, but none of them managed to restore Alex’s face to what it had once been.
In fact, one surgery caused a massive infection to form that left Alex’s left eyelid oozing pus for almost a full year. It was a traumatic experience to say the least.
He was left with a lopsided appearance that caused serious stress, anxiety and self-imposed isolation.
Thankfully, there was help to be had from a plastic surgeon and 3D printing technology. Dr. Daniel Borsuk is the Canadian plastic surgeon who took on Alex’s case.
Dr. Borsuk is no stranger to similar cases. He was part of the team that restored the face to a gunshot victim several years previous.
“A lot of my patients don’t leave home,” he said, speaking of victims’ lost self-esteem and anxiety. They shy away from society and many lose their jobs because they don’t want to go to work and be seen by people who knew them before.”
3D printing was at the core of Alex’s surgery. A detailed scan was taken of his skull, and then an exact replica was created with a 3D printer. A mirror image of the undamaged side was used to put the pieces back together properly on the side damaged in the beating.
“We printed out a 3D modelled skull, and a model of what’s different between the left and right sides,” Dr. Borsuk said. The surgery itself took eight hours and required that the team use a piece of donor bone from Alex’s hip.
“There was blood going in an out of the bone, keeping the little implant alive while I sculpted it to fit his face. We went in and cleared off all the scar tissue that was causing him pain, we cleaned off where the nerve was and when we put in the bone, it fit like the missing piece of a puzzle.”
Today, Alex has virtually no pain remaining from his ordeal, and his face is back to normal. There aren’t even any scars to show where the operation took place.
This is just one more example of how 3D printing is not only making new things possible, but changing people’s lives for the better.