Submitted by Mike Clarke on Thu, 27/03/2014 - 14:54
A survivor of a serious motorbike accident has had pioneering surgery to reconstruct his face using a series of 3D printed parts.
Stephen Power, aged 29, from Cardiff is thought to be one of the first trauma patients in the world to have 3D printing used at every stage of the procedure. He suffered multiple face and skull injuries in a bike accident in 2012. Despite wearing a crash helmet, he broke both cheekbones, upper jaw, nose and fractured his skull and was in hospital for four months.
Doctors at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, had to break his cheekbones again before rebuilding his face, using 3D laser technology to custom print models, guides, plates and implants to repair the injuries months after they were sustained.
Mr Power said the operation had been "life changing". From being highly conscious of the appearance of his injured face and wearing hats and glasses to disguise his disfigurement, he now feels far more confident and is already getting out and about more than he did.
Maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar says the 3D printing took away the guesswork that can be problematic in reconstructive work.
"I think it's incomparable - the results are in a different league from anything we've done before," he said.
"What this does it allows us to be much more precise. Everybody now is starting to think in this way - guesswork is not good enough."
Mr Power's 8-hour operation is featured in an exhibition at the Science Museum in London, called 3D Printing: The Future. It has to be a happier use for this developing technology than turning out firearm parts from a home computer.
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