A proper surgical plan is a key to success when performing complicated interventional procedures. Face transplants can be particularly challenging since every patient has a unique natural anatomy that was also shaped by the accident that led to the transplant. To help prepare for each case, surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have been using 3D printed reproductions of patient skulls to prep for face transplantations. They presented their findings at the ongoing RSNA conference in Chicago.
The team first virtually recreated patient skulls from imaging slices obtained during pre-op CT scans. Once confirmed, the data was sent to a 3D printer that generated a 1 to 1 reproduction of the skulls. These models were then used to identify facial bones that would need to be worked on and spot where bone filler may need to be added to help in creating a decent looking face. The technique also saves time during surgery, which can go on for more than 24 hours.
“You can spin, rotate and scroll through as many CT images as you want but there’s no substitute for having the real thing in your hand,” said Dr. Frank J. Rybicki, radiologist and director of the hospital’s Applied Imaging Science Laborator. “The ability to work with the model gives you an unprecedented level of reassurance and confidence in the procedure.”