Medical & Dental

Australian woman’s jaw reconstructed with 3D printed titanium implant

In a landmark case, doctors in Australia have restored a woman’s jaw with titanium 3D printing. Susie Robinson from Victoria, required an implant to reconstruct her upper jaw following the results of a car crash nearly thirty years ago.

In a new approach Dr George Dimitroulis, at Epworth Freemasons in East Melbourne, 3D printed a titanium maxilla implant.

Susie Robinson following the surgery. Photo by Eddie Jim.
Susie Robinson following the surgery. Photo by Eddie Jim.

Lasting solution

48 year-old radio producer, Susie Robinson has had 15 operations over the years to repair her damaged jaw following the crash in 1989. Yet none of the procedures had managed to provide a lasting solution. For the last 15 years, Susie has relied upon dental implants to hold her false teeth in place. However, when these cracked her dentist realized her jaw had deteriorated further and suggested she found a more unorthodox alternative.

The implants in Susie's jaw before the surgery. Image via The Sydney Morning Herald.
The implants in Susie’s jaw before the surgery. Image via The Sydney Morning Herald.

Robinson was sent to see Dr George Dimitroulis who introduced her to a new procedure that would not involve grafting bone from her hip and undergoing several operations. Dimitroulis’ procedure would require only one surgery to implant the device, once she had been scanned and the jaw 3D printed.

The 3D digital model of Robinson's jaw. Image via Dr George Dimitroulis.
The 3D digital model of Robinson’s jaw. Image via Dr George Dimitroulis.

Alternative approach

3D Printing Industry has reported recently on how 3D printing was used to repair British man Stephen Waterhouse’s jaw. This surgery used 3D printing to create guides before removing bone from the patient’s leg and reconstruct the jaw bone.

Using the 3D printed titanium approach, Robinson did not have to undertake several procedures and her surgery lasted only an hour. Susie Robinson has now made a full recovery and it seems her jaw can finally recover with the titanium implant. Following the implantation procedure, Robinson’s jaw will now grow bone around the titanium, using the implant as a strong base structure.

Titanium implant with dental screws. Image via The Sydney Morning Herald.
Titanium implant with dental screws. Image via The Sydney Morning Herald.

Future procedures 

It seems, application of 3D printing in this way is only halted by acceptance since the technology is clearly already advanced. While surgical guides 3D printed by Materialise have recently gained FDA approval, Dr. George Dimitroulis explains,

The dental and medical professions are quite conservative and when you bring in a new technology that threatens existing practices they put up a wall,

According to the man behind this surgery his biggest challenge, “is convincing surgeons and dentists that this is not a one-off 3D-printed gimmick for some rare disorder but in fact it’s something that may well be a game-changer as far as dental implants are concerned.” Attitudes are changing in the medical field with many hospitals around the world implementing the technology and will be encouraged by cases like this one.

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Featured image shows the implant during surgery. Photo by Eddie Jim.

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