Last Sunday I had the privilege of standing in front of the Channel 10 cameras to explain that custom 3D printing of ears has become a reality in Australia.
The star of this story is 4 year old Maxim. On Monday he became the recipient of the first custom 3D printed ear implant in Australia and only the 16th in the world.
Maxim has hemi-facial microsomia, a condition characterised by a having one side of the face which is smaller than the other. It is often associated with a missing ear canal and outer part of the ear.
I performed a reconstruction of his ear at Castlecrag Private Hospital using an implant made from a biocompatible polymer, known as Su-Por, a type of porous polyethylene. The implant was modelled from a mirror image of Maxim's other normal ear.
We also used 3D imaging to plan the perfect positioning of his new ear, which can be challenging in cases of facial asymmetry. In order to translate the positioning information from the 3D scan into real life, we printed a planning jig which happened to also double as a Batman mask, Maxim’s favourite superhero!
Channel 10’s reporter Amanda Hart and her TV crew attended the Sunday interviews with Max and his parents, and also Monday’s surgery. Amanda’s recent story on RPA’s customised 3D bioprinter piqued interest in the rapid developments of 3D printing in surgery.
I’m excited that Amanda is covering this innovative surgery because it will reassure other families like Maxim’s that these advances in microtia surgery, which improve outcomes for their children, can be found here in Australia.
The custom 3D printed technique has several advantages over the rib technique, can be performed with less pain and time in hospital, it only requires one stage, and it can be performed at a younger age (often being completed prior to starting school).
The innovation landscape is full of opportunity to combine technological advancements with modern clinical practice. Translating these advances to clinical application is the most rewarding part of my work because this is when you see how research changes lives . As a father myself, I know the powerful emotions a parent experiences when their children requires medical attention, and being able to offer improved solutions and better outcomes to wonderful kids like Maxim is very fulfilling.
If you would like to help me spread the word about this new technique now available in Australia, please share Maxim’s story.