Doctors successfully used 3D printing technology to manufacture an artificial jaw for a cancer survivor named Shirley Anderson. Anderson, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, underwent surgery and radiation therapy after a lump was discovered on his tongue.
The use of 3D printing technology for the artificial jaw was pioneered by Travis Bellicchi, a resident at the Indiana University School of Dentistry.
Earlier, doctors had removed Anderson's chest muscles to recreate the lower half of his face. Bellicchi even tried making an artificial jaw out of clay. But that turned out to be quite large and heavy to be worn for the entire day. Anderson was unable to eat solid food and had to use a surgical mask to hide his face, suggests a report by the Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Bellicchi and his team came up with the 3D printing technology to create a mould of Anderson's face. Artists then painted the new artificial jaw to match Anderson's skin colour.
"The traditional process for impression, sculpting, mouldmaking, and aesthetic characterization is a laborious task. I knew there was a need for a digital solution," said, Bellicchi.
The 3D printed mould is lighter and more comfortable, which enabled Anderson to wear the artificial jaw for a long time. The same method has already been used on six other patients including one who received a new ear in only six weeks.
This is not the first time 3D printing technology has been used in the field of medical surgery. In January, the technology was used to transplant a kidney on a three-year-old girl named Lucy Boucher from Northern Ireland. This is said to be the world's first adult kidney transplant using 3D printing.
"It is the first time in the world that 3D printing has been used to aid kidney transplant surgery involving an adult donor and a child recipient," according to surgeons at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. Check out the video below to see how 3D printing technology helped Anderson.