Chinese doctors use 3D printer for skull surgery

Updated: 2016-11-08 16:50


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CHONGQING -- Doctors in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality have successfully replaced a section of a female cancer patient's forehead with a 3D-printed part.

The patient, Liu Li (Not her real name), who is in her early 20s has had recurrent tumors for over 16 years, and has kept her hair long at the front to cover the growths.

"I have had bangs for over a decade, finally I can grow my hair out and not be paranoid about my tumors," she explained.

When her tumors first began to show, around 16 years ago, Liu had them removed but they returned and grew back larger than before. Despite multiple operations over the years, the tumors returned every time.

The tumors were eventually identified as benign, but due to their location they put pressure against her right eye socket, meaning if they were not removed they would likely impair her vision and limit her motor skills. Doctors agreed that a complete excision was the only suitable procedure.

Moreover, due to the location of Liu's tumors the operation would disfigure her face and the damage would be almost impossible to repair by traditional plastic surgery.

After discussion, a 3D-printed bone replica procedure was agreed as the best operation.

Liu underwent a high-precision CT scan so that doctors could create a 3D reconstruction of her skull and print a 1:1 replica of the bone part, with a precision of 20 microns.

The replica piece was then implanted and fixed in place with titanium screws. The operation, which was conducted earlier this month, was a success and Liu was discharged from hospital a week after going under the knife.