Daya Gahir, a consultant at the Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, UK, has used 3D printing to help reconstruct the jaw of cancer patient, Stephen Waterhouse.

Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel newspaper, Waterhouse said, “I am so pleased with the results – you can’t tell the difference between the two sides of my mouth.”

Stephen Waterhouse after the reconstructive surgery with 3D printed molds used to remake his jaw. Photo via The Stoke Sentinel

Stephen Waterhouse after the reconstructive surgery with 3D printed molds used to remake his jaw. Photo via The Stoke Sentinel

Around 1/4 of the hospital’s head and neck reconstructions now helped by 3D printing

Waterhouse was first diagnosed with throat cancer eight years ago. Through chemo and radiotherapy treatment he was eventually given the all clear, but the stress of the radiation started to cause his jaw to disintegrate.

As an oral and maxillofacial (jaw and face) expert consulting at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, Daya Gahir decided that 3D printing would be the best way of reconstructing Waterhouse’s jaw.

The Royal Stoke University Hospital Photo via expressandstar.com

The Royal Stoke University Hospital Photo via expressandstar.com

Speaking again to The Stoke Sentinel, Gahir explains,

We do at least 40 major head and neck reconstructions per year. Around 10 to 15 cases will be done in this way using the printer.

Adding that,

In each case of this we are saving about £11,000, but it’s the results that are paramount. If you put the bone in the right place, you can have dental implants and so on – the surgery has an impact on future treatments.

Using the patient’s natural bone

The intricate procedure was done by removing sections of bone from Waterhouse’s leg. The 3D printed jaw gave surgeons a model to follow when reshaping the bone to replace the jaw. Skin was also removed from Waterhouse’s leg to patch the back of his neck.

Promise for the future of 3D printing in medicine

The success of the operation affirms a drive with the 3D printing industry to install 3D printer facilities in every hospital. One of the main barriers to this progress is in the regulations surrounding the technology.

In December 2016, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) shared “The 3R’s of 3D Printing” explaining the steps being taken towards 3D printing in medicine. Some 3D printed medical devices have already been FDA approved, including surgical guides developed by Belgian 3D printing software company Materialise.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School, MA, have also successfully performed the transfer of bone from one part of the body to another using guides made on a desktop 3D printer. However, generally speaking, process is necessarily slow, and stories like this one about Stephen Waterhouse are incredibly encouraging for the future.

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Featured image shows Royal Stoke University Hospital consultant Daya Gahir with a 3D printed jawbone. Photo via The Stoke Sentinel

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