In the office of Michael Jaskolka, DDS, MD, FACS, a small, non-descript box no bigger than a microwave, quietly prints out the finely detailed bone structure of a patient’s skull.
Dr. Jaskolka, a cleft and craniomaxillofacial surgeon with the NHRMC Physician Specialists, uses this 3D printer to provide a visual blueprint for precise surgical procedures of the face, neck, mouth, jaws and head. Using information from a patient’s CT scan, the minimalist machine produces incredibly life-like parts layer by layer. The result is a plastic version of the area Dr. Jaskolka will be operating.
“In the majority of cranial, facial or orthognathic (jaw) procedures, I use software to virtually plan surgery with a computer. 3D printing technology acts as the link between the virtual plan, and the operating room and can be used in many different ways. This approach allows surgery to be planned to the millimeter before the patient is put under anesthesia. Surgical times are shorter with more predictable results; all leading to a higher quality of care.”
“This technology allows me to give patients and their family members a clearer picture of the details of surgery,” Dr. Jaskolka said. “It gives patients peace of mind knowing what the procedure will entail, and it allows me to give them something they can physically touch and manipulate in order to best understand the treatment for any maxillofacial or craniofacial procedure,” Dr. Jaskolka said.
For instance, if an infant has craniosynostosis, a birth defect that causes the sutures, or joints, between the bones of the skull to be fused, he can use the printer to create a model of the patient’s skull. Dr. Jaskolka then marks the model to show parents where the area of concern is, and how surgery will be used to separate the fused bones allowing the brain and skull to grow in a more natural shape.
To see the 3D printer in action, check out our time-lapse video of it building a plastic model of a pediatric patient’s skull.