13 Mar 2014

Face rebuilt using 3D-printed parts

1:15 pm on 13 March 2014

A British man who suffered horrific facial injuries in a motorcycle accident has had pioneering surgery to rebuild his face using 3D-printed parts.

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

The 29-year-old suffered multiple trauma injuries in the 2012 accident in 2012. Even though he was wearing a helmet, his top jaw, nose and both cheek bones were broken and he fractured his skull.

Stephen Power before and after.

Stephen Power before and after. Photo: AFP / ABMU HEALTH BOARD

Surgeons said that by using 3D printing techniques, much of the guesswork was removed from the reconstruction of the face - which is remarkably similar, AFP reports, to what it was before the accident.

The team at Morriston Hospital in Wales used CT scans to create and print a symmetrical 3D model of Mr Power's skull, followed by cutting guides and plates printed to match. His cheekbones were rebroken, following the cutting guides, before the remodelling of the face was completed, and a titanium implant printed in Belgium was then used to hold the bones in place.

Mr Power, who wore a hat and glasses to hide his injuries before the operation, says the results are "totally life-changing".

"I could see the difference straight away the day I woke up," he told the BBC. "I'll be able to do day-to-day things, go and see people, walk in the street, even go to any public areas."

Maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar says the results are "incomparable" to anything he had achieved before.

"Without this advanced technology, it's freehand, you have to guess where everything goes," he says. "The technology allows us to be far more precise and get a better result for the patient."

Mr Power's case is being featured in an exhibition about 3D printing at the Science Museum in London.