PATIENTS in need of life-changing facial reconstructive surgery now have new hope thanks to technology being developed by Gloucestershire engineering giant Renishaw.
A team of Welsh surgeons has just released information about pioneering surgery to reconstruct the skull of a motorcycle crash victim which was made possible with the ingenious 3D printing technology designed by Renishaw.
Surgeons at Gloucestershire’s own maxillofacial unit at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital specialise in reconstructive operations for cancer patients, have worked closely with the Welsh team and are understood to be planning to buy similar technology.
Motorcycle crash victim Stephen Power suffered horrendous injuries in an accident which left his skull badly damaged. Reconstructive facial surgery carried out by the surgical and prosthetic design team at Cardiff Metropolitan University and the MaxilloFacial Unit at Morriston Hospital was made possible by Renishaw’s 3D printing technology.
It was able to make and supply the guides used to rebuild the shattered skull.
Chris Pocket, a spokesman for Renishaw, said: “It is pretty exciting stuff. This is really pioneering surgery. It is pointing towards the kind of bespoke 3D printing applications now possible. Going forward we can customise this.
“Renishaw has supplied cutting and placement guides which we have 3D printed in cobalt chrome alloy on a Renishaw AM250 additive manufacturing machine.
“Renishaw is the only UK manufacturer of a metal 3D printing machine. We design and develop the machine at our Stone (Staffordshire) and Gloucestershire sites, and manufacture the machine at our site near Cardiff.”
Adrian Sugar, consultant maxillofacial surgeon and member of the team which operated on Mr Power, said: “The unit at Gloucester is an excellent maxillofacial unit and one of the maxillofacial surgeons there, Gerry Farrier, is an old Morriston Hospital colleague of ours.
“We have worked with Mr Farrier and other surgeons along with their maxillofacial prosthetist John Starr to help plan their complex trauma and cancer cases and manufacture custom titanium orbital implants for them using similar technologies as used for Mr Powers and I believe they are in the process of raising funds to purchase their own software in the near future.”
CARTIS, the joint research group between Morriston Hospital and Cardiff Metropolitan University, is expected to publish a paper on its techniques so the operation can be developed in the NHS and worldwide.
Wotton-under-Edge-based Renishaw, which employs around 1,900 in the county, already has a close relationship with the NHS in Gloucestershire which is familiar with its 3D printing technology.
“We already use the 3D printing for our dental business. We make thousands of dental structures used across the NHS and Europe – produced at our Stonehouse factory,” said Mr Pockett. “What makes this different is it is really pioneering. It is British engineering again – hidden, because we are not a brand name, but enabling new breakthroughs.”
Mr Power called the results of the operation “life changing.”