Why yes, we can print you a new body part. A motorcycle accident victim in Wales just had his skull surgically reconstructed by a team that used 3-D technology to print custom implants for him.
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Stephen Power was wearing a helmet when his motorcycle crashed in 2012, but it didn't stop his head from getting crushed. It broke his cheek bones, top jaw, nose, skull and left him in the hospital for months. Afterward he wore a hat and glasses to disguise the asymmetry in his face, he told the BBC's Hywel Griffith.
Recently Power, 29, underwent a new round of surgery at Morriston Hospital in Swansea to restore his appearance. Maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar led the project in collaboration with the Centre of Applied Reconstructive Technologies in Surgery and the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research.
The unaffected side of Power's head was scanned and used to produce a 3-D model. Then medical-grade plates and custom bone saw guides were 3D-printed. A surgical team had to re-fracture his cheek bones in order to rebuild his face. The procedure took eight hours. Powers told the BBC he could see the difference right after the surgery. "It is totally life changing," he said.
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The project is featured in an exhibition on 3-D printing at the Science Museum in London through July. Although surgical 3-D printing remains incredibly involved, the Wales team hopes it becomes more widely available over time. Maybe a trip to the ER will mean getting all new 3D-printed bones.
Photo: The 3-D printed implant models for patient Stephen Powers, whose skull was restored by a team working at Morriston Hospital in Wales. Credit: Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board via Twitter