In 2010, surgeons in Spain performed the world’s first successful full face transplant. The patient, who was injured in a shooting accident, received all facial muscles and skin – as well as cheekbones, nose, lips and teeth – from a deceased donor. Surgeons in other countries have since completed similarly complex face transplants. And now doctors at a hospital in the United States are using computer tomography (CT) to better plan and execute such procedures. First they image the recipient’s head with a CT scanner, in which X-rays capture hundreds of virtual slices to produce a 3D virtual model. From that data, they build a life-size skull model (pictured) using 3D printers. This means surgeons can make alterations to ensure the transplant fits as easily as possible. Previously, they had to hastily make those modifications during the hour-long period when blood flow is stopped to allow for the connection of blood vessels.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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