How To Print A New Face

The face of a motorcyclist who was severely injured in a crash has been repaired using 3-D printing.

Stephen Power, 29, had two broken arms and needed a bone graft for his right leg after the 2012 accident in Porthcawl, Wales.

But despite the fact that he was wearing a helmet, his worst injuries were to his face.

“I remember five minutes before [the crash] and then waking up in the hospital a few months later,” Power said. “I broke both cheekbones, top jaw, my nose and fractured my skull.”

Peter Evans, the maxillofacial laboratory services manager at the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said: “The patient suffered trauma and had multiple injuries across his body, including some quite severe facial injuries.”

Adrian Sugar, the consultant facial surgeon, said: “We’d already done a pretty good job with Stephen’s facial injuries but the ophthalmologists had warned us off doing anything that might damage his sight further.”

As a result, the former bartender’s left eye was lower than his right and his left cheek bulged outwards, although his sight has improved.

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Stephen Power before (left) and after the surgery using 3D printed implants

“We did not get his left cheekbone in the right place and we did not even try to reconstruct the very thin bones around his eye socket,” Sugar said.

“People do not realise just how disruptive these injuries can be. Stephen was wearing a hat and glasses to disguise his appearance and was avoiding leaving the house.”

So Power returned to the operating theatre early in 2014 for an eight-hour surgical fix, this time using the latest methods from the Centre for Applied Reconstructive Technologies in Surgery (CARTIS).

The centre was established seven years ago by Power’s maxillofacial unit at Morriston Hospital in Cardiff and the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research.

Two PhD candidates, Ffion O’Malley from Cardiff Metropolitan University and Sean Peel from Loughborough University, laid the groundwork for the operation under the guidance of Dr Dominic Eggbeer.

The team took CT scans of Power’s head and then created a symmetrical model by mirroring the undamaged right side. Previously, a plaster cast would have been made of the patient’s head, a slow and claustrophobic procedure.

“Using scanners and computer software we are able to take all the measurements we need in one sitting,” said Dr Eggbeer.

Added Peel: “This was entirely planned digitally and then translated to the surgery.”

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