Humans have a total of 43 muscles in the face and that makes it a challenge for doctors who have to perform a facial reconstruction. This difficulty was taken into account by a team of plastic surgeons from the Italian Hospital of Buenos Aires, who created a 3D mask that reproduces the characteristics of the face and improves the results of a facial reconstruction, for patients who suffered deep burns.
Hernán Aguilar, plastic surgeon from the University of Buenos Aires, doctor at the Plastic Surgery service and Surgical Coordinator at the Burned Area of the Intensive Care Unit of Adults of the Italian Hospital, and Horacio Mayer, deputy-leader of the service of plastic surgery of that hospital, developed together this technique that “had not been described so far in the world medical literature,” Aguilar said
What is it about? These professionals created a new technique that uses simulation technology combined with three-dimensional (3D) printing to make a custom mask that adapts to the patient’s face and ensures that the skin grafts in difficult areas of the face fit harmoniously. “When the patient burns his face, the first thing to do is remove the dead skin, and there we scan the facial features and print a mask of polylactic acid, a 100% biodegradable polymer manufactured from renewable resources such as corn, beet, wheat and other starch-rich components,” explained Aguilar.
This model was already successfully tested in a 38-year-old patient who had severe burns on his face. The scientists obtained images of the patient in three dimensions used a Swiss simulation software program for cosmetic surgery, called Crisalix. Then the 3D model was transferred to a 3D printer.
Once the professionals print the mask, after waiting between 13 and 18 hours, an artificial membrane of bovine origin (commonly used to treat burns) is applied to the patient and the impression is placed on it, which is removed 21 days after its application.
The creator of the method commented that traditional methods to reconstruct faces in cases of burns consist of two stages: reconstructive and pressotherapy. The first consists of using artificial skin grafts or dermis, which is fastened with gauze, dressings and threads to the patient’s face; while the second begins about a month and a half after the burn, when the wounds have healed. At that time an acrylic mask is placed on the face, made with a plaster cast, and there pressure is applied to certain fabrics.
“Before, the face ended up without function, hard and with hypertrophic scars, (i.e. thick elevations of the tissue that exceed the level of the normal surface of the skin). With this mask the skin has not that volume, nor coloration and in addition optimal functional results are obtained, since it adapts to the irregular shape of the face and allows the adequate immobilization of the grafts or artificial dermis, difficult to achieve with the traditional methods,” Aguilar said.
The new technique was already applied in a man of 38 who survived the explosion of a car. According to professionals, the patient “was very satisfied with the result.” Meanwhile, the Italian Hospital added that “the patient presented third degree burns in more than 40% of the body, which compromised his hands, forearms and legs, and generated extensive facial damage that included his forehead, eyelids, the nasal region and both cheeks.”
After six months of rehabilitation, according to Aguilar “an optimal scarring of the face was obtained, with an acceptable skin color, and the functional and aesthetic sequelae in the patient were avoided. The use of the custom 3D mask for a year will continue to mold the scars, thus improving its color, texture, and volume,” he concluded.
Source: Agencia ID