A man whose face was crushed in a motorbike accident will have the damaged half rebuilt using 3D printing technology.
A team of surgeons from Morriston Hospital, Swansea, hope to restore the symmetry of the victim’s face using specially-designed plates, in what is thought to be a world first.
The team, led by consultant maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar, used CT scan images to create a mirror image of the man’s good side for the Additive Manufacturing, or 3D printing.
The printed images were then used to design guides to cut and position the bones with pinpoint accuracy, as well as create tailor-made implants for the patient.
It is thought to be the first procedure of its kind – and the titanium plates are being produced in one of just a few 3D printing centres in Belgium.
Surgeons will break and cut several facial bones in the complex operation, but the 3D printing will produce guide devices to make the repositioning of the bones a lot more accurate.
The project is the work of the Centre of Applied Reconstructive Technologies in Surgery (CARTIS), formed in 2006 as a partnership between Morriston Hospital’s Maxillofacial Unit and Product Design and Research (PDR) based at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
ABMU’s Maxillofacial Laboratory services manager, reconstructive scientist Peter Evans, said: “The patient suffered trauma and had multiple injuries across his body, including some quite severe facial injuries.
“He underwent emergency surgery at the time and we are now at the stage where we can do a proper reconstruction of his face.”
And the procedure is already featured in an exhibition at the Science Museum in London before the operation itself is carried out.
Mr Evans added: “We have done everything up the point of surgery. The concept of the operation has been virtually designed and we hope to do the work very soon.
“The patient’s facial symmetry will be restored so he should be back to normal as far as his facial looks are concerned.”
The exhibition is called 3D: Printing The Future, and will feature until July 2014.
It comes after the word’s first 3D printed gun exploded during a test by federal agents this week.