In an effort to improve the techniques used for human face transplantation, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) have combined 3-D modelling techniques from the film industry with conventional medical imaging.
The new technique makes use of the information of multiple imaging exams and creates a sophisticated 3D computer reconstructions. The computer modelling software can integrate information from several imaging modalities, like 3D CT, CT angiography, MRI and high-definition tractography to create the 3D model of the anatomy of the head and neck. This same technology is being used in movies to animate computer-generated characters.
For face transplant surgery it is important to know everything about the vascularisation and bone structure, because it has to be able to support the new facial tissue. The model will help gather more information about the patient’s anatomy.
The research team can overlay the 3D computer model of the patient with a polygon mesh of a generic human face and customize it further. Dr. Darren Smith, plastic surgery resident at UPMC, said the ability to manipulate this 3-D facial envelope will allow the surgical team to participate in planning exactly where bone, blood vessel and nerves will be cut and connected. The outcome of the transplantation can also be evaluated using the model, including nerve regeneration within the transplanted tissues.
In the video Dr. Smith explains the 3D modelling technique:
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center statement: UPMC Surgeons Create 3-D Models to Prepare for Complex Face Transplants