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A New Wave of Innovation in Maxillofacial Procedures at St George’s

21st March 2019

The Maxillofacial Department at St George’s Hospital is where complex and life-changing operations are performed to restore form, appearance and function to problems with the face, mouth, teeth and jaws. It is complex and essential work – with the department at St George’s acting as the central hub of the southwest London Maxillofacial Network, as well as being recognised as a Centre of Excellence for providing specialist services not available at other hospitals.

St George’s Hospital Charity was thrilled to be able to fund important software to assist Maxillofacial staff in their work. Thanks to fundraising efforts, the department was able to purchase the Materialise software modules that are used to import CT scan data so that it can be manipulated and edited into a 3D file format that is then sent to the 3D printer. This software saves vital time, as the measuring and manipulating of the facial feature can be done online within seconds, instead of by hand.

Creating facial prosthetics for St George’s patients previously involved taking physical impressions of the individual’s facial feature with wax. This impression would then be used to create and build a replacement facial prosthetic made out of silicon and coloured to match the individuals skin tone. Up until now, this process has been completed by hand, using intricate measuring processes and days of focus. Now, with the new software and the recently received state-of-the-art 3D printer from the NHS – the team are able to scan and print individual features within minutes!

Natalie Short, Maxillofacial Prosthetist, has recently used this new software for a patient undergoing cranial reconstruction. The introduction of the software allowed Natalie to show both the surgeon and the patient the exact section of the skull being removed, and a sample of the prosthetic that would be put in its place. This allowed much more information to be provided to the patient and the surgeon, as well as making the actual surgery quicker, safer and more efficient.

Iain Muir-Nelson, Consultant Maxillofacial Prosthetist and Maxillofacial Laboratory Manager, has highlighted how this technology can be used in other ways across various departments in NHS hospitals. For instance, a first-time mother who was blind and was unable to see the scans of her unborn baby. With this machine and software, the Maxillofacial Department at another NHS Hospital were able to take a scan of her baby’s face, and print it out using the 3D printer. This allowed the mother to feel and experience the shape of her unborn baby’s face, even though she couldn’t see it, a priceless experience.

Iain has said: “Last year the Maxillofacial Laboratory was very fortunate in securing funding to develop 3D printing services here at St George's. Importance is placed more so on the 3D printers but these would be redundant if not for powerful, medically approved software modules to bring patients’ CT and CBCT scans to a point where they can be 3D printed. St George’s Hospital Charity very graciously agreed to fund the purchase of software to allow this to happen. Materialise are a global software solutions company that are at the forefront of the industry. Thanks to St George’s Charity funding 3 Materialise software packages were purchased which allows the Maxillofacial Laboratory team to design and get ready for print many patient specific items and 3D models, which has already impacted on savings in operating theatre times – as well as helping us better explain to patients their condition and treatment planning.”

Without funding from St George’s Hospital Charity, the Maxillofacial Department would not have been able to purchase this life-changing software. Donations from supporters like you are crucial and make a massive impact to the lives of patients and staff across our Trust. Every little bit helps – click here to make a donation.

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