3D printing technology used to rebuild crash victim's face

Experts praise 'life changing' 3D technology that removes guesswork from reconstructive surgery

3d printing
(Image credit: BBC)

PIONEERING surgeons have used 3D printing technology to reconstruct the face of a motorbike accident victim in Wales.

Stephen Power, from Cardiff, is believed to be one of the first trauma patients in the world to have 3D printing used at every stage of the procedure.

The 29-year-old fractured his cheek bones, nose and eye sockets and smashed his upper jaw and skull in the accident, which happened as he returned from a night out with friends in September 2012.

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Doctors at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, had to break his cheekbones again before rebuilding his face in a procedure that took eight hours to complete.

Printed implants have been used before to help correct congenital conditions, but this operation used custom printed models, guides, plates and implants to repair impact injuries months after they were sustained.

In a bid to restore the symmetry of Power's face, the surgical team used CT scans to create and print a symmetrical 3D model of his skull, followed by cutting guides and plates printed to match.

Adrian Sugar, a maxillofacial surgeon at the hospital, says the 3D printing took away the guesswork that can be problematic in reconstructive work.

He said the technology allows surgeons to be much more precise and said the results of Power's operation were "in a different league from anything we've done before".

The UK has become one of the world's pioneers in using 3D technology in surgery, with advances also being made by teams in London and Newcastle, says the BBC.

Power, who can only remember what happened five minutes before the accident and then remembers waking up in hospital a few months later, has described the operation as "life-changing" and a huge boost to his self-confidence.

"Now I won't have to hide my face away and can do everyday things like going for walks," he said.

Design engineers are hoping that the latest advance will encourage greater use of 3D printing within the NHS.

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