When Stephen Power woke up in a hospital months after a horrific motorcycle accident, he thought he would have to spend the rest of his life hiding his face from the public. He was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, which certainly saved his life, but he still suffered traumatizing and gruesome injuries. He broke both of his cheekbones, his top jaw, his nose, and fractured his skull. Since the 2012 accident, he has shielded his face from the world with the help of hats and sunglasses. Now, thanks to groundbreaking technology and pioneering surgeons at Morrison Hospital in Swansea, Wales, Power no longer needs the disguises.
Doctors used CT scans to recreate Power’s face and then printed a symmetrical 3D model of his cranium. Then they were able to reconstruct his face by cutting the mold down with the help of cutting guides and printed plates.
The eight-hour procedure also entailed using medical-grade titanium implants to secure the position of the bones. The surgery, which Power calls life changing, would have been somewhat of a guessing game without the use of the 3D printing technology.
WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO – The BBC Video below describes the process.
How 3D Printing Works
The 3D printing process, which has been compared to digital sculpting, involves entering geometric data into a computer manually and forming it into graphics. The computer then forms a physical, three-dimensional model of the desired object after scanning the “sculpture” it has created.
Stephen Power is apparently the first person to undergo such a complex surgery with the assistance of a 3D printer, although dozens of patients last year in the UK experienced similar procedures to aid with various maladies.
The technology has endless beneficial applications, and the success of Power’s procedure has major implications for the future of 3D printing for surgical purposes. The maxillofacial surgeon who conducted the operation said the innovative technology will eliminate months of surgical planning and will hopefully become a routine course of action in the near future.