Cutting-edge technology is being used right here in Nashville to help people after traumatic accidents. A few months ago, a duck named Buttercup was fitted with a prosthetic foot, and it turns out the same technology is being used to help humans, too.
"It really offers an improvement over the more traditional way of managing deformities," said Dr. Sam McKenna, chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
McKenna says he uses 3D printing to help patients who've suffered a facial trauma or deformity.
First, doctors take a three-dimensional CT scan.
"Using data from the CT scan, we can create a mirror image from the normal side and reconstruct the damaged side so that we have symmetry," McKenna said.
Once the mirror image has been created, doctors send that data to a 3D printing company in Colorado.
About two to three weeks later, they'll get back a synthetic implant.
"The implant can be applied to the defective side and essentially what it does is recreate the normal anatomy on the uninjured side," McKenna said.
This type of procedure doesn't happen every week. Doctors try to repair trauma first, but if that isn't possible, the 3D printing can be an option.
Before this technology was available, doctors would do a bone graft, in which they take a piece of bone from another part of the body and use that to reconstruct the injured area.
This new process is more precise and doesn't require a second surgical site in the patient.
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