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Dutch hospital 3D prints woman a new skull29 March 2014, by Alexandra Gowling
In a revolutionary new procedure, UMC Utrecht has performed a total skull replacement using a plastic replacement skull made with a 3D printer.
The 23-hour operation was performed on a 22-year old patient who was suffering from a disease that caused her skull to thicken.
In its initial phase, the increasing pressure on the brain causes severe headaches, which were then followed by a slow loss of eyesight and finally co-ordination problems.
According to the surgeon who performed the operation, Bon Verweij, "It was only a matter of time before other crucial brain functions became compromised and she would die. Major surgery was inevitable, but there has not been an effective treatment for these patients until now."
The research hospital in Utrecht has had previous experience with replacing pieces of skulls, but has never before replaced an entire one.
It used to be that the skull pieces were hand copied from a sort of cement in the operating room, but that process is less precise than the 3D print technique that can make an exact copy of an existing skull.
The new process has not only very large benefits cosmetically, but patients often have better brain function when compared to the old method.
Please be aware the video contains images of the operation.
The operation was performed three months ago and the hospital waited until now to release the news, since first they wanted to be entirely sure the operation was a success.
According to Verweij, it absolutely has been. "The patient has her sight back, she is symptom free, is back at work again and it is almost impossible to see that she ever had surgery."
The hospital says this technique can also be used in the future for patients with other bone disorders, or for the repair of skulls after an accident or with a tumour.
Source: UMC Utrecht