Most of the time, a car accident victim with trauma to the face will undergo hours of surgery in the operating room, as doctors work to rebuild the damaged area based on their best analysis of how the face might have looked before (usually using a CT scan).
But 3D printing is transforming all of that, leading to shorter surgeries, better reconstructions and improved results for patients.
In Tennessee, oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Brooks, and his team of residents are using EnvisionTEC’s 3D printing solutions to create better treatment plans, implants and other life-changing devices for patients with birth defects, or recovering from disease or trauma.
Dr. Jeffrey Brooks, who has more than 20 years of experience and multiple roles at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has been leading the way with this progressive approach.
Today, he explained, a trauma patient will still have their injury scanned after a comprehensive exam. But now, Brooks and his team will plan the reconstruction digitally and 3D print a life-sized biomodel on an EnvisionTEC Vector 3SP. The machine creates a replica of the patient’s bony structure with accuracy to 100 microns.
The surgeons can then build reconstructive devices right on the 3D printed biomodel at their desk, crafting it exactly as they want before they ever set foot in the operating room. Once they do enter surgery, they have all the fabricated parts they need to do the reconstruction quickly.
“It has truthfully been a game-changer for us,” said Dr. Brooks, who also serves as U.S. Director of Clinical Affairs of ACTEON North America and has appointments at four Memphis-area hospitals. “This method is substantially better than conventional methods.”
“We needed something that could print fast, with easy clean up and would be ready to go within a 24-hour period of time…,” Brooks explained. “When selecting a 3d printer, it was critical for us to make sure we didn’t have to calibrate or otherwise maintain the machine with any frequency,” he said. “The Vector is a really stable and reliable unit.””
Charlie Felts, an oral surgery resident at UTHSC, said the new approach saves precious time and money, in addition to delivering a better outcome for patients.
“When you’re in the operating room, there’s all kinds of tissue, blood, irrigation, the lighting is not always great, it’s hard to see,” he explained. “When you just have the boney model on your desk, you see every little piece, every nook and cranny … We can perfect it before we go in there and make sure it fits. We can get very close to perfect.”
The EnvisionTEC Vector 3SP also plays a critical role that other printers cannot. Dr. Brooks explained that the fast turnaround time needed in emergency cases wouldn’t be possible with the kind of FDM filament 3D printers he started with years ago.
“What would take the Vector several hours to print would sometimes take a filament-type printer 36 hours with significantly less accuracy,” Brooks explained. “We needed something that could print fast, with easy clean up and would be ready to go within a 24-hour period of time because a lot of the trauma cases come in the night before.”