When you hear the terms “cosmetic surgery” or “plastic surgery,” your mind likely goes immediately to Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers, or countless other celebrities who have thrown billions of dollars at the industry in desperate attempts to turn back the clock or make themselves more “pleasing” to look at. The mere mention of cosmetic or plastic surgery carries associations of shallowness and vanity, which is unfortunate, because facelifts and nose jobs are only one facet of a medical field that offers hope to so many people whose features have been damaged or disfigured by accidents or diseases.
Like the rest of the medical industry, cosmetic surgery has been significantly advanced in recent years thanks to 3D printing. People who have lost noses, ears, or even their entire faces in horrific accidents can now have their features, and lives, restored in complex procedures that rely heavily on 3D modeling and printing. Despite the capabilities of the technology, however, a reconstruction of facial features is terrifying and traumatic. Imagine going into surgery, unsure of what you’re going to look like when you wake up. Doctors can provide sketches to give patients some idea of what their reconstructed faces will look like, but it’s still only an approximation.
Surgeons at Al Qassimi Hospital, located in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, have been using 3D printed models to give patients much more accurate representations of what they can expect to see in the mirror post-surgery. Using CT scans, doctors are able to create accurate models of the skulls of even the most severely disfigured patients. From there, it’s easy to 3D print a model of the patient’s unique face shape. Printing a model of a skull takes about three days, while models of other body parts such as hands can be printed in only an hour.
“The 3D prints that are created as the surgical model can help all plastic surgery patients feel a greater sense of confidence in their potential results,” plastic surgeon Dr. Mesha’al Al Nabouda. “Whether a person is coming in for a reconstruction or rejuvenation, I can provide exceptional precision as a benefit of this technology. It is an exciting time to work in the plastic surgery field with this type of advancement at our fingertips.”
According to Dr. Saqr Al Mulla, deputy CEO and head of plastic surgery at Al Qassimi Hospital, the United Arab Emirates is the first country in the Middle East to use 3D printing technology for medical purposes. The UAE has been miles ahead of most countries, in fact, when it comes to innovative uses of 3D printing in all industries. Dubai is funneling a significant amount of money into the development of 3D printing technologies to reduce environmental damage, and the city also intends to construct an entirely 3D printed office building in the near future. It’s no surprise that the UAE should be leading the fray in medical 3D printing, as well.