3D technologies developed by Belgian 3D printing company Materialise have played a crucial role in the first successful eye transplant. The groundbreaking surgery, performed on May 27 at NYU Langone Health Hospital in New York, included a partial face transplant.
Materialise developed a virtual pre-operative 3D plan for the surgery and 3D printed various medical devices tailored to the donor and patient. This ensured that the operation could be performed faster and more precisely. Such instruments are increasingly being used in routine surgeries and give surgeons a higher level of confidence, leading to improved patient outcomes.
The recipient, Aaron James of Hot Springs, Arkansas, survived a fatal 7,200-volt electric shock in June 2021 when he was working as a high-voltage conductor and his face accidentally touched a live wire. It was the first time a full eye transplant had been successfully performed, combined with a partial face transplant. The operation lasted 21 hours and was performed by a team of over 140 surgeons and medical staff, including Materialise clinical engineers.
Materialise clinical engineers worked closely with the surgical team at NYU Langone Health for several months to develop a virtual plan based on CT scans. These plans allow surgeons to prepare for surgery and visualize different scenarios. Materialise also designed and provided many cutting guides and bone models to support seven body donation labs before the surgery.
During the surgery, cutting instruments and bone models were used that were customized to the donor and patient and 3D printed by Materialise. These cutting instruments ensure that the bone fragments can be positioned faster and with extreme precision. Once Materialise was informed that a suitable donor had been found and received the CT scans, it took less than 24 hours to pre-plan the case, design and 3D print the instruments, and for Materialise staff to fly them to New York in time.
This successful operation marks a milestone in the medical world and demonstrates how advanced 3D technologies can revolutionize precision and efficiency in surgery. Materialise remains a leader in the use of 3D printing for medical applications, helping to improve the lives of patients.