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3D Printing Reshapes Life of Accident Victim

March 28, 2014 at 12:52 PM

I recently read an uplifting story about the survivor of a serious motorbike accident and how pioneering technology has helped his path to recovery.

Motorcycling accidents can result in extremely serious and life changing injuries, and recovery is often a long term process involving many different treatments and rehabilitation therapies. So any innovations in this field deserve our attention.

Stephen Power from Cardiff was involved in a road accident back in 2012. Despite wearing a crash helmet he suffered multiple injuries to his cheek bones, eye sockets, upper jaw and skull. He also suffered serious injuries to both his arms and right leg which required a bone graft.

Following the accident he underwent emergency life saving surgery at the Morriston Hospital in Swansea but unfortunately doctors were unable to reconstruct the left hand side of his face. He had serious damage to his left eye and the surgeons were reluctant to carry out any treatment as there was a risk of them causing further damage to his sight. Unfortunately this meant that his cheekbone was left too far out and his eye was sunk in and dropped.

Pioneering Surgery Techniques

The following year Mr Power agreed to undergo pioneering surgery using techniques developed by the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research at Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Maxillofacial team at Morriston Hospital.

The purpose of the surgery was to correct the appearance by cutting and moving facial bones. To offer the optimum outcome, computer aided design and 3D printing technique was required. Once Mr Power's eye had healed the doctors scanned 3D images of his face to design replica bones. The replica bones were made from layers of medical-grade titanium which were carefully crafted into the precise shapes of Mr Power's own bones.

Mr Power then underwent surgery at the Morriston Hospital in Swansea where his cheekbones had to be re-fractured before his face was re-built. The operation took around 8 hours to complete with a multi-disciplinary team of doctors on board to assist with the procedure.

Mr Power is thought to be one of the first trauma patients in the world to have 3D printing used at every stage of the procedure. Maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar said that the 3D printing took away the guesswork that can usually be very problematic in reconstructive work.

This medical marvel has now given Mr Power the confidence to be able to go out in public. Prior to the surgery he would leave the house wearing a hat and glasses to mask his injuries. Now he feels that he no longer needs to disguise himself or hide away.

I hope this latest technology advancement will result in greater use of 3D imaging within the NHS and be of real benefit to people born with facial deformities or who have suffered facial injuries from an accident like Mr Power.


About the author

Laura Reaney photoLaura Reaney is a litigator within Spencers Solicitors Complex Injury team. Laura has extensive experience in dealing with claimants that have complex and serious injuries, and over the years has worked on various claim types including those caused in road accidents.


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