At a press conference, the institutions announced that an estimated 10,000 people in Taiwan are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, around 60 percent of whom require reconstructive surgery. These operations can affect appearance as well as the ability to eat and speak.
Tsau Fang-hei (曹芳海), director of the ITRI’s southern campus, said that while the ITRI had been working with 3D-printed medical devices for many years, its partnership with KVGH marked the first time it had applied the technology to prosthetic jaws. Prior to beginning clinical testing in 2019, the ITRI simulated over 500 million occlusion, or “bite,” tests with the prosthetic devices to ensure that they would fit and function properly, Tsau said.
The hospital’s superintendent, Lin Yao-hsiang (林曜祥), said that of the nine patients who had received the prosthetic jaws to date, none have had their device become loose, and “over 50 percent” have begun to regain their ability to chew. Based on the trial results, teams at the ITRI and KVGH will continue to improve the design of the 3D-printed prosthetic jaws, in the hope that they can become more widely used in the future, Lin said.
The collaboration between the ITRI and KVGH shows how innovative technologies can improve medical care and positively impact patients’ lives. This breakthrough in the application of 3D printing for medical prostheses could be an important step towards improved treatment methods and quality of life for cancer patients.