• X-Ray of the jaw joint. Photo credit: The University of MelbourneX-Ray of the jaw joint. Photo credit: The University of Melbourne

Australian-first reconstructive surgery uses 3D printed jaw implant manufactured at the University of Melbourne

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne have helped to manufacture a 3D printed custom-jaw joint that has been used in surgery to correct a young man’s rare congenital jaw deformity.

This surgical procedure was the first of it’s kind in Australia, performed by a surgical team led by Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon George Dimitroulis. Research engineers from the School of Engineering, and medical devices company 3D Medical (ASX:3DM), produced the custom-made jaw joint in titanium, using the latest 3D metal printing capabilities.

The patient, Richard Stratton, was born with condylar aplasia – missing a jaw joint called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) that resulted in a lack of growth in the left side of his face and a noticeably skewed lower jaw. The condition also affected jaw motion, greatly affecting his chewing capacity and facial expression.

Dr David Ackland, a senior lecturer and researcher in experimental muscle and joint biomechanics at the University of Melbourne, led the engineering design and testing of the joint replacement, and said the biomechanical and clinical results look promising: “Working closely with maxillofacial surgeon Dr Dimitroulis, we helped to design, engineer and test this entirely new jaw joint prosthesis using state-of-the-art computational modelling we developed at the University of Melbourne. We believe the techniques we have developed and the latest 3D printing technology will facilitate a new direction in research and manufacture of implantable devices.”

Mr Dimitroulis said surgery is at the cross-roads of an exciting era, where an increased use of 3D technology will see customised medical devices become an integral part of healthcare in the 21st Century.

Research into the use of 3D printing technologies for medicine is a rapidly expanding area, if you are interested in conducting similar research at university in Australia or New Zealand, have a look at this page for more information on applying for a PhD. Contact Study Options to find out more about the University of Melbourne.

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