Reconstruction of Man's Face Aided by 3D Printing


When there’s delicious food in front of you, what do you think before taking the first bite? Do you linger on the thoughts of how delightful it would taste or if it will satisfy your cravings? What about if you are not able to chew it because of physical incapability? That feels like a nightmare, don’t you think so? But 3D printing has an answer to this situation.

This complicated challenge of eating had been experienced by Blessing Makwera for years. At the shy age of 9, an unforeseen tragedy had turned Blessing’s life upside down. It happened in Zimbabwe where he grew up. It was when a land mine blew up his face, leaving him with severe damage on his upper and lower jaws and as far as his tongue, lips and teeth. Most people would likely think that after a tragedy like this, one
would just sink in depression. But Blessing proved them wrong. Instead of being bitter on what happened to him, he accepted his destiny and is able to look past his disfigured face and instead look through the bigger gift, he had survived. He is still alive. Despite everything that happened, he still has the chance to enjoy his family, play sports and watch the sunset.

One could tell that because of his positive attitude, luck has crossed his life once more. Jennifer Trubenbach, along with her organization Operation of Hope, had a surgical mission to Zimbabwe. When the two met each other, Jennifer was instantly moved by Blessing’s story, his strong spirit and positivity. This inspired her to restore Blessing’s cheerful smile to its rightful place. Strongly determined, Jennifer asked the help of San Diego’s Sharp Memorial Hospital to help restore Blessing’s face.

After studying Blessing’s case, Dr. Joel Berger, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, contacted 3D Systems to create a plan for Blessing’s intricate and involved reconstructive facial surgery. Dr. Berger decided to perform a fibula free flap operation. This requires reconfiguring bone, tissue and vessels from the fibula to form an upper and lower jaw receiving blood supply from the neck. Because this type of operation would involve highly complicated procedure, Dr. Berger asked for the help and services
of plastic surgeon Dr. James Chao together with 3D Systems’ Virtual Surgical Planning.

The surgical team transformed Blessing’s CT scans into 3D anatomical data for surgery visualization. Within only two hours, the doctors and 3D experts were on a conference call digitally mapping out the surgical route. Having the plan ready, 3D Systems printed three
anatomical models and tools to aid the operating surgeons.

And barely after 12 long hours, was Blessing’s surgery declared a success. His reconstructed jaw look and function as good as a normal one. Another surgery was made, where he was given jaw implants to support a dental prosthesis, finally returning his smile.

Now, with his ability to laugh, smile, and eat freely fully restored, Blessing is opening the
next chapter of his life as a student at the College of Western Idaho. 

Based on the story 3D Printing Aids Reconstruction of Man's Face by 3DSystems