Secondary Care

New 3D printing tech helps rebuild patient faces

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is benefiting from 3D printing techniques to help rebuild the faces of cancer patients, those hurt in accidents and people born with complex facial deformities.

The Trust is using 3D printing to produce resin models of patients’ skulls to then be used to create titanium plates and implants used by maxillofacial surgeons and neurosurgeons to repair damage to people’s faces.

Robert Goddard, Maxillofacial Surgeon and Clinical Lead, said the new 3D printing techniques mean the team can help people recover more quickly from devastating injuries and illnesses.

He said: “By using these new techniques, we are now able to have a faster turnaround time to repair defects. This means our patients endure less psychological damage and can return to work and their social lives far more quickly. For other patients who have a longer journey ahead of them, the models we can produce give them a better understanding of their injuries and why it may take time for them to recover.”

“It also helps patients with cancer who can suffer both soft tissue and bony problems as it allows us to treat them with greater accuracy.”

CT scans are used to create a 3D image on a computer screen, which the scientists overlay with mirror images to analyse the extent of the damage from both inside and outside the skull. The image is then sent to the 3D printer to produce the model, costing under £10 and often produced in less than five hours, in the lab at Castle Hill.

Reconstructive scientist Helen Dehkordy, head of Maxillofacial Scientists, said: “We can now make 3D models right here in hours instead of waiting months for them to be produced and delivered to the trust.  Recently, a surgeon came to see me about a patient and we were still able to produce the surgical model two days later. Before we had this technology, just getting the model would have taken at least two weeks and that was for urgent cases.”

“Not only does this new technology produce better results for patients, it also improves their whole experience at what can be a very difficult and anxious time for them.”

“The first time we used the technology, the whole team stood around watching the 3D printing in progress because it was so exciting. I’m really pleased we’re moving forward with new technologies in this trust and it’s great to be a part of this innovative project.”