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Handheld scanner takes prosthetic ears to a new level

by • August 3, 2016 • No Comments


Dr Ken Stewart, of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, has adopted 3D scanning innovation to turn it into lifelike ears for children born with Microtia.

It affects one in 10,000 children and it manifests itself in an underdeveloped pinna. Effectively this means they are born with no real outer ear structure and plastic surgeons have been fighting with this condition for decades.

Tracing the healthy ear

Most Microtia sufferers have one healthy ear, so an older technique involved via an acetate sheet to take a tracing of the conclude ear and via this as a template for the mirror image. Inevitably, this did not turn it into perfect results.

MRI scans replaced the acetate sheets, but actually that did not get the most results and the MRI scan itself is an expensive procedure. So Dr Stewart can be on to a winner with the handheld Artec Spider 3D scanner.

“Most patients are born with one ear missing or a loose part of one ear,” Stewart tells Digital Trends. “Traditionally we may use a clear acetate to take a 2D tracing of the normal ear. This may be utilized as a template to assist carve an appropriately sized and shaped opposite ear. The 3D scanner and mirror image software allows for us to turn it into a additional accurate template.”

Microtia sufferers have an unlikely ally in the Artec Spider 3D scanner

Spider’s price does not bite

It is yet not a bargain-priced scanner and the latest edition sells for $27,600. But with equite MRI scan costing an average of $2,611, this handheld scanner becomes a relative bargain.

The price of MRI scans is coming down, too, and they are not utilized regularly preceding significant operations. For specific tasks like creating a new ear, yet, a handheld scanner with its own suite of software offers comparable results for a much lower price.

Stewart yet prefers to turn it into the new ear of extracted rib cartilage under the patient’s own skin. Other treatments include plastic implants inside the patient’s skin and conclude prosthetics that can be permanently grafted to the skin.

Now, Stewart takes his scan and uses a 3D printing device to turn it into a replica of the ear. That and so gives him a exact instruction to work of when he uses his popular technique. The models are only printed plastic instructions right now, but Stewart thinks that won’t be the case for much longer.

Microtia sufferers have an unlikely ally in the Artec Spider 3D scanner

Bioprinted ears are on the way

He believes we are not far away of replacement ears turn it intod of polymers and stem cells.

Stewart said: “We are working with scientists at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Chemistry Department with a view to tissue engineering an ear. Professor Bruno Peault and his team have characterized stem cells inside human fat that lie upcoming to blood vessels. We can harvest these quite easily by liposuction.

“For a plastic surgeon that is simpler than bringing blood. With Professor Mark Bradley’s team in the chemistry department we have synonymous FDA approved polymers to that the stem cells can bind and can be driven to turn it into cartilage. We understand we can 3D print in the polymers concerned. So the Artec-derived 3D scans may potentially be mirrored and 3D printed with the perfect polymer.”

It is only one additional way that 3D scanning and printing have combined to lower the costs of complicated medical procedures and improve the high end of life of children that were born with a cruel disfigurement. We can’t wait to see what comes upcoming.


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