Doctors Print New Face For Bike Crash Victim

John Lister's picture

Doctors in Britain have used a 3D printer to replace parts of the shattered face of a man who survived a serious motorbike crash.

Although the surgery has only just taken place, Stephen Power's crash happened in 2012, where he spent four months unconscious in hospital.

Mr. Power explained to the BBC that he broke his nose, jaw and both cheekbones in the crash, as well as his skull. Although he underwent several operations, surgeons had to act quickly to avoid breaking the bones around the eye socket and potentially causing major damage to his eyes. (Source:

After the emergency surgery, Power's face was left deformed, with one eye lower than the other and his nose pushed off to one side. As well as affecting his appearance, the injuries left him with impaired vision because his eyes were no longer parallel.

Surgeons Start With 3D Printed Skull

Late last year, specialists began work on using a new technique to rebuild his face, using 3D printing technology at every stage of the process.

3D printers work in the same way as traditional printers, but instead of ink use a range of substances that are heated, applied as liquid, then quickly set as a solid. The printers then build up the object layer by layer.

Staff started by using CT scanners (a form of X-ray) to build a three-dimensional model of Power's skull, then used the 3D printer to print out a plastic model. Using this model, they were able to figure out the best way to produce implants that would return his face to its original shape.

They then took this information and used a 3D printer to produce the implants using metal-grade titanium material safe for implant inside the human body.

3D Printer Surgery Could Be Too Costly

Doctors also used the 3D model of the skull to mark reference lines. Surgeons then used the lines to mark the most efficient place to saw and then break Power's cheek bones - something that was necessary to fit the implants.

The eight-hour operation was a success and Power says he now looks forward to being able to go out in public without having to hide his face. (Source:

Although the experimental operation shows the 3D printing techniques work in principle, it may be some time before the costs are low enough to use as a standard procedure.

What's Your Opinion?

What do you think of this revolutionary way to use 3D printers? Should health insurers cover such innovative use of technology, even if the costs are high? Do you think it would be ethical to use 3D printing for those seeking cosmetic changes such as facelifts, rather than injuries?

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Sherjjmm's picture

Yes i think insurance should cover costs for these type of injuries. .its a persons health and well being at stake..Cant put a price on that..