3D Printing Body Parts at the QMC
Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre maxillofacial laboratory, the only one in the county, designs and crafts a range of prosthetics for the face, neck, chest and so on. The lab was the first of its kind in the UK to purchase a in house 3D printer, and since doing so have printed 500 models. Jason Watson, Consultant maxillofacial prosthetist, says that 3D printer has changed the process of reconstructive surgery for the better, making it quicker, more accurate and efficient.
The 3D printer saves time, allowing for previously time consuming planning to be done in the QMC's lab. Before having the 3D printer, surgeons would have to observe and plan what they were operating on, but now it can be sized, cut and shaped ready for the surgeon. These advancements have saved as much as three to four hours in theatre.
Purchased in 2008 for £25,000, the 3D printer uses CT images and MRI scans to create 3D models of patients body parts. In the QMC's maxillofacial laboratory, the printer is used to produce sections of patient's skulls, helping with procedures such as jaw reconstruction following the removal of tumours. By using 3D printing, time and accuracy of the procedure have been vastly improved, as has the patients peace of mind. Mr Watson says that when patients come to see him, he can actually show them on their own jaw, skull, face, what is going to happen and where. This helps patients to visualise what is actually going to happen to them.
The QMC's Z Corp machine has produced 521 3D models since being purchased in 2008. The machine works by using a fine spray of binding material to fix together powered minerals. Mr Watson is keen to share his departments 3D printing expertise with the patients across the country.
The department makes prosthetic body parts like noses and ears as well as 3D models. Using a combination of 3D imagery and digital colour matching technology, the 3D printers is capable of producing the most lifelike replacements possible.