Stephen Power of Cardiff was critically injured while riding his motorcycle in 2012 and remained in the hospital for months. He sustained considerable damage to his maxilla, cheekbones, nose and even fractured his skull, despite wearing a helmet. When he finally left the hospital, his face was disfigured, which took a major toll on his quality of life.
Later, Power’s surgeons were faced with the monumental task of reconstructing his demolished facial features and decided to use the most technologically-advanced option available: 3D printing. Powers received custom-made 3D printed models, guides, plates, and implants, which makes him the first trauma patient to use this technology in every aspect of the reconstruction.
In order to re-establish facial symmetry, doctors created CT scans of Power’s skull. Each feature that needed to be reconstructed was carefully mapped out and planned. The surgeons reported that this eliminates the guesswork involved with reshaping facial features and will likely become the normal course of treatment for these types of surgeries.
After all of the pieces had been designed, the specifications were sent to a firm in Germany that manufactured the parts on a 3D printer using medical-grade titanium. Once the surgeons received the new parts, they spent eight hours in surgery to reconstruct Power’s face. His cheekbones had to be re-broken in order to to install the guides, and an implant was used to hold the bone in the proper location.
Following his initial accident, Powers hid his injuries with sunglasses and a hat and avoided public spaces. He reported feeling more confident upon waking up from his reconstructive surgery and is happy to not have to shy away from people anymore, because his face looks almost like it did prior to the injury. He has described his operation as “life changing” and hopes that the NHS will encourage more widespread use of 3D printing techniques for surgical patients.
Image: Before (left) and after (right) the reconstructive surgery using 3D printed parts. Credit: BBC
The BBC documented Power’s operation and journey. There are graphic surgical images, so please view with discretion.