Materialise Offers 3-D Printing to Aid in Face, Hand Surgery


Materialise skull workflow for operation
Materialise’s 3-D visualization and printing technology helped New York surgeons with the world’s first simultaneous double hand and face transplant. // Image courtesy of Materialise

Materialise in Plymouth Township saw its 3-D visualization and printing technologies play a crucial role in the world’s first simultaneous double hand and face transplant. The recent surgery was successfully performed at New York University Langone Health in Manhattan.

Materialise’s 3-D planning and printing tools were used in the operation; 3-D printed tools can enable speed and accuracy in medical procedures and are increasingly common for use in routine surgery.

“Image-based planning and medical 3-D printing have completely revolutionized personalized patient care by providing surgeons with detailed insights and an additional level of confidence before entering the operation room,” says Bryan Crutchfield, vice president and general manager – North America for Materialise.

“As a result, leading hospitals are adopting 3-D 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 3-D technologies.”

The 22-year-old patient suffered burn wounds on his face and arms resulting from a car accident. During a preparation period of 14 months, Materialise clinical engineers worked with surgeons, rehearsing the operation in a lab environment to develop the surgical plan.

Once a suitable donor was found, Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez, the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and chair of the Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery and NYU Langone, along with his team had only 24 hours to begin the procedure.

In the months leading up to the procedure, Materialise engineers created an on-screen 3-D model based on CT scans. This allowed the surgeons and engineers to virtually plan the procedure and visualize different scenarios. The planning also allowed surgeons to virtually select and position medical implants and predict the optimal anatomical fit.

Once the plan was finalized, Materialise 3-D printed the personalized surgical guides, anatomical models, and tools for use during the surgery. The surgical team used Materialise’s 3-D printed cutting and drilling guides for bone fragment repositioning and fixation. The company also 3-D printed sterilizable identification tags for nerves and blood vessels, 3-D printed models that were used during donor transport, and 3-D printed splints, enabling optimal donor hand position during soft tissue reconstruction.

“Complex transplant surgery like this brings together a large team of specialists and presents new and unique challenges,” says Rodriguez. “This demands careful planning and makes timing, efficiency, and accuracy absolutely critical. Virtually planning the surgery in 3-D and creating 3-D printed, patient-specific tools offers additional insights in the pre-operative phase and increased levels of speed and accuracy during a time-critical surgery.”

Materialise offers virtual planning software tools, 3-D printed anatomical models, and personalized surgical guides and implants. Along with health care, it serves clients in health care, automotive, aerospace, art and design, and consumer goods. Its global headquarters are in Belgium, and it has branches worldwide.

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