Plastic surgeon uses ‘miraculous’ 3D printing to reconstruct damaged faces

Posted: 12/02/2016


It’s probably fair to say that at some point most of us have looked in the mirror and been unhappy with our appearance. Usually it’s a small detail such as a blemish, a dissatisfaction with something we perceive as crooked or the wrong size, or one of any number of complaints we all have about our appearance on a daily basis. Our faces are the subject of a great deal of scrutiny, both our own and by others.

Sometimes there are people who feel such a great dissatisfaction with their faces that they resort to elective cosmetic surgery to make modifications. That’s not the only kind of client that plastic surgeons see, however. Cosmetic surgeons also work to help patients who were born with facial abnormalities or who have experienced a traumatic event leading to the devastation of their faces.

This was the case with a 17-year-old man in Phoenix, USA, who was struck by a car while crossing a street and suffered significant damage to the right side of his face. The car was traveling about 30 miles per hour when it struck the man. His face was smashed against the windshield and then further damaged when he was thrown to the street. The skin and muscles were stripped from his face right through to his molars and the bones in his cheeks and forehead were destroyed. Luckily for him, he was rushed to hospital in Phoenix where Dr Pablo Prichard is using 3D printing technology to help with just such formidable facial reconstruction procedures.

Dr Prichard gave a glimpse of the serious nature of the youth’s case in a US TV interview saying: “This was a devastating injury to his face. He had crush wounds to his forehead, the eyeball socket wasn’t just crushed but pulverised as far as the bone was concerned… By doing it with 3D printing, what we’re doing is taking the mirror image of his opposite side and projecting that on the devastated side. It all looks nice and symmetric, which I’m happy with, his scars are diminishing in appearance.”

Using 3D print technology allows the surgeon to create a guide that is much more faithful to plan than undertaking the work free hand would be. One year and four operations later, whilst the facial scarring is visible, it’s hardly disfiguring. Given the extent of the man’s injuries, the results of the surgery are described as nothing short of miraculous.

Alison Johnson, senior associate in the cosmetic surgery team at Penningtons Manches, commented: “I saw a report of this man’s injuries and the before and after photos. There is no doubt, I am sure, that he was under the care of a very skilled plastic surgeon and received excellent medical attention, but he appears to have also benefited hugely from the use of a 3D printer in his treatment. This must have been a powerful tool in the hands of his surgical team. It is fantastic to see the advances being made in the revision work plastic surgery can offer to people at such traumatic times of their lives, enabling them to rebuild their identities.”


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