This is an exact replica of a 23-year old's bone structure. This model helped reconstruct his face after suffering severe facial trauma recently. Upon admission at the CTO Hospital in Turin, the young man's surgery was prepared and planned in record timing using 3D printing technology. After a first CT scan late in the afternoon when the patient came in, the case was studied in the hospital laboratory which experiments with new surgical methods with the help of 3D technologies. Machines and minds were put to work overnight so everything would be ready for the operation the following morning. "On the computer we are able to realign all the bone segments that have been fractured, we can obtain a correct model, with the correct morphology of the boy's face, we can then print this model so it is a real 3D model and on that model we can mould certain devices that we will need in the operating room to turn our plan into reality," explains Emanuele Zavattero, the maxillofacial surgeon who operated on the young man. Andrea Novaresio is the engineer that worked with the doctors to plan the operation. "What the surgeon can do is look through the cuts on all three dimensions to see which bones were fractured during the trauma, our job is to turn these into a 3 dimensional model using the bi-dimensional images," he explains Engineers and doctors were able to simulate the surgery on the computer and reshape the anatomy of the face which had been compromised by the trauma. The 3D model was then printed and surgeons were able to mould the titanium plates customized for the patient before even entering into the operating room. "In the past this step of modelling the plates was done directly on the patient during the surgical operation. Having the option to do this before the operation allows to reduce the time spent in the operating room and the doctor can go in with all the elements he needs for the operation," explains Novaresio. Operations such as this one have been done before, but have always taken at least four or five days to prepare. "We now have reduced costs and have a quicker procedure, so much so that we were able to use the technology for this patient in just a few hours. We can thus apply the process to an increasing amount of surgeries," explains Guglielmo Ramieri, Director of Maxillofacial Surgeries at Citta della Salute University Hospital. Former procedures included outsourcing the printing of the model, making it impossible for hospitals to use the technology in emergency trauma surgery. "They improved and changed their way of working," says Sandro Moos who oversees the engineers working in the hospital laboratory. "We have been able to test the results by comparing the CT done after the operation and the planned operation on the computer. There is a good similarity so we were able to use all the systems correctly so the precision of the operation was improved as a result. In this way we also reduce the time spent in the operation room, which is easier for the patients to undergo and allows for a quicker recovery," he adds.
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