Earlier this week, a team of Materialise clinical engineers and NYU Langone surgeons made history with the world’s first double hand and face transplant. The success of this transplant largely owes to 3D printed personalized tools that are becoming increasingly common for use in routine surgery. Materialise’s 3D planning and printing tools, allowed surgeons the speed and accuracy necessary to successfully conduct this complex medical procedure. The 22-year-old patient was a victim of a car crash wherein he suffered burn wounds, significant soft tissue damage, and severe injuries to his face and arms. Led by Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone, this procedure is expected to improve the patient’s function, appearance and quality of life.
3D modeling played a crucial role in the preparation of the surgery. While the team had fourteen months to prepare, once a suitable donor was found they would have only 24 hours to begin the procedure. This meant that there was very little room for flaws in the surgical plan or last-minute decisions. Materialise engineers used the patient’s CT-scans to create a personalized 3D model. Thanks to this model, surgeons and clinical engineers were able to virtually plan the procedure and preempt potential scenarios. The 3D model offered a highly detailed and personalized rendering of the patient’s anatomical bone structure. This allowed them to accurately rehearse the operation and fine-tune their plan accordingly. The team was thus able to determine the optimal surgical flow and create an accurate surgical plan.
Bryan Crutchfield, Vice President and General Manager commented on the importance of 3D modelling: “Image-based planning and medical 3D printing have completely revolutionized personalized patient care by providing surgeons with detailed insights and an additional level of confidence before entering the operation room”. He continued “as a result, leading hospitals are adopting 3D planning and printing services as part of their medical practices because they create a level of predictability that would be impossible to achieve without the use of 3D technologies.”
The 3D tools used in pre-surgical planning also enabled the surgical team to select the medical implants as well as predict their optimal anatomical positioning. Once they had established the surgical plan, Materialise 3D printed the anatomical models and tools for use during the transplant surgery. This included a fully guided system for bone fragment repositioning and fixation unique to the patient’s anatomy. The precision offered by these medical tools meant that the total surgery time was heavily reduced. Materialise also 3D printed models that were used during donor transport, and 3D printed splints, enabling optimal donor hand position during soft tissue reconstruction.
Materialise engineers coordinated the development of a surgical plan and created an on-screen 3D model based on CT-scans. (Photo Credit: Materialise)
According to Dr. Rodriguez, “complex transplant surgery like this brings together a large team of specialists and presents new and unique challenges. This demands careful planning and makes timing, efficiency and accuracy absolutely critical. Virtually planning the surgery in 3D and creating 3D printed, patient-specific tools offers additional insights in the pre-operative phase and increased levels of speed and accuracy during a time-critical surgery”.