Patient given titanium face graft

LIMITED APPLICATION::The new surgery techniques ensure that implants fit on the patient’s face perfectly, but they can only be used to remove benign tumors

By LIn Yen-tung and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Mar 20, 2018 - Page 3

A titanium alloy has been grafted into a patient’s face using minimally invasive incision, surgical navigation and 3D printing techniques, Taipei Veterans General Hospital said on Monday.

The procedure left almost no scars on the patient’s face, and the alloy follows their facial contours and does not impair vision, the hospital’s oral and maxillofacial surgeon Wu Cheng-hsien (吳政憲) said.

The 45-year-old patient, surnamed Su (蘇), had a recurring odontogenic cyst on the dental epithelium, which affected the right maxillary sinus and cheekbone, causing swelling under the right eye, Wu said.

Traditional methods would involve surgical incisions on the face to remove the cyst and the use of bone tissue from the calf to fill the gap left by the operation, Wu said.

Such methods usually leave scars and the bone tissue might not fit the original contours of the face, causing evident changes to the temporomandibular joint and affecting the patient’s ability to chew, Wu said.

The new methods eliminate the problem of unsuitable replacement tissue, as 3D printing techniques produce perfectly fitting bone or titanium alloy fillings, Wu said, adding that surgical navigation techniques allow doctors to seamlessly fit the replacements in place.

Su was not the first patient to undergo the procedure that combines the three techniques, Wu said.

Last year, an 18-year-old woman, surnamed Su (陳), sought treatment for ameloblastoma on her lower jaw and doctors decided to surgically remove the tumor, Wu said.

In addition to Su and Chen, there were three other cases in which the hospital’s doctors conducted surgery combining the three methods, Wu said.

However, the new methods can only be used on benign tumors, Wu added.

The doctors need to locate the tumor and decide whether to use titanium alloy or bone tissue as a replacement, Wu said, adding that the function of the body part to be replaced — such as the jaw, which is responsible for biting and chewing — must also be taken into consideration.

Wu said that patients should communicate with their doctors before committing to surgery and choose a method that is most suitable to their condition.