Doctors in Shanghai, China have used 3D printing to reconstruct a woman’s face. Jin Qi, from a small village in Hubei Province Central China lost her nose and lips when she was 2 years old and has felt disfigured ever since.

In a pioneering technique, doctors at the Ninth People’s Hospital used 3D printing to assist in remodeling the patient’s face and grow a new nose and mouth on the woman’s chest. 27 year-old Jin Qi, underwent a 10 hour surgery procedure this week to prepare her face for the reconstruction process which may take up to 2 years to complete.

Jin Qi with her doctors. Photo via Xinhua.

Jin Qi with her doctors. Photo via Xinhua.

Rare sepsis

The patient’s injuries were sustained at a young age following a rare septic infection. Unfortunately until now, Qi had no access to proper medical care and only realized she could get treatment upon moving to Shenzen. The woman, who works as a graphic designer, was crowdfunded on the internet to help with the costs of the procedure which was reportedly 500,000 yuan ($72,000 USD).

Jin Qi will now grow the mouth and nose on her chest in order to be implanted in a later procedure.

Recently we took a look at how French researchers are also currently implementing 3D printing for breast reconstruction surgery.

Doctors modelling Jin Qi's face with the 3D printed models. Photo via Xinhua.

Doctors modelling Jin Qi’s face with the 3D printed models. Photo via Xinhua.

3D printed models for pre-surgical planning

The Chinese doctors will use a 3D scan as a guide for the growth of the mouth and nose, which may take up to a year to grow having extracted tissue from her thigh. The team have also used 3D printed models to visualize the desired results of the reconstruction procedure and aid the process.

One of the most well known cases involving 3D modelling and printing throughout the planning and eventual surgery is the remarkable story of the McDonald twins.

3D printing has been used to aid facial reconstruction surgeries in the past, Andy Sandness from North America received a successful facial reconstruction surgery following injuries sustained in an attempted suicide. His case was similarly complex having shot himself in the face and requiring significant reconstruction. However, unlike this case Jin Qi’s face will be reconstructed using her own skin tissue, while in another technique an Australian woman received a titanium 3D printed implant to restore her jaw.

Before and after photos of Andy Sandness' facial transplantation. Photos via the Mayo Clinic

Before and after photos of Andy Sandness’ facial transplantation. Photos via the Mayo Clinic

Why 3D printing was required 

Zhu Ming, one of the doctors working on the case explained how 3D printing technology was required for Jin Qi’s complex case. He states that the patient is a particularly difficult case because she lost her facial features at such a young age. As Dr. Ming says,

It’s harder to create the nose and lips compatible to her face than in the cases of most of our adult patients because her facial bones and soft tissue have become enormously deformed or wanting over the years,

By using 3D technologies to model the area the Chinese doctors hope to provide a suitable reconstruction, particularly since the patient has not had a nose or mouth all her adult life to use as a guide. Zhu Ming also explained that the reconstructed nose will be larger than required and then refined following the success of the procedures.

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Featured image shows the 3D printed models used to model Jin Qi’s reconstruction. Photo via Xinhua. 

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