3D printing continues to lead the medical field to new heights, and while this is a boon for scientists, surgeons, and progressive technology—patients are often the ones emerging as the real winners. Anelia Myburgh can attest to this as she was recently the recipient of a 3D printed jaw implant. And while so many implants today are responsible for improving the quality of life of patients, Myburgh was particularly grateful to have a chance for facial reconstruction.
A native of Melbourne, Australia, Myburgh lost much of the lower portion of her jaw and teeth when surgeons were forced to remove them due to a dangerous tumor (originally discovered when she began complaining of a small bump); in fact, 80 percent of her jaw area was removed due to the cancer doctors found within—leaving her with only a couple of teeth and a significantly disfigured face. They saved her life, but the tumor-removal surgery did not come without a physical and emotional toll also.
Myburgh was understandably self-conscious about being in public after the surgery removing the tumor. She was not alone in such struggles either as so many other cancer patients around the world who have had similar jaw surgery are left with challenges such as adapting to a new and often less attractive physical demeanor—along with having difficulty in chewing and eating.
“I just want to be able to walk down the street and not have people stare,” said Myburgh before the 3D printed jaw was implanted. “That is my ultimate goal.”
Her greatest hope was that with the 3D printed implant, her countenance would be more normal once again, and the surgical team was confident beforehand.
“The fact that we can 3D print a frame where we can actually anchor some teeth back for her would give her back her quality of life,” said her maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. George Dimitroulis.
Many medical appointments were necessary with the surgical team before Myburgh went in to the operating room.
The surgery to implant the new 3D printed jaw and titanium frame took five hours and included taking extra skin from her forearm and diverting it to her lip area to help with normalizing her facial area again. Such a procedure would cost around $22,000 in US dollars. It was a huge success for Myburgh though, who now has a full set of new teeth and reconstructed lips. And while her bravery and beauty certainly shine from within, there is no denying that the 3D printed jaw allowed her to return to her former attractive self. Not only that, now she can enjoy the joy of cheeseburgers again!
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