Surgeons at Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US are using 3D printed models of their patients' skin tissues and skulls to guide them in planning complex full facial transplants and presented their methods at the 2014 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting last week.

Full facial transplants have only existed since 2010 and are designed to help patients whose faces have been severely injured from horrific construction, electrical and shooting accidents, fires and maulings by dogs and bears.

To do this, surgeons have to remove what's left of a patient's face and replace it with a complete face from a donor, complete with lips, nose, tear ducts and eyelids.

This incredibly complex surgery can take up to 24 hours to complete and requires a full team of surgeons.

It also requires in-depth surgical planning to make sure the transplant is successful, and so Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital has begun using models 3D-printed using Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 and the Objet Eden 260VS 3D printers to support its efforts.

The hospital is the third in the world to have carried out full face transplants and was the first in the US.