Rib Cartilage Ear Construction is a process in which child’s rib cartilage is used to carve an ear framework of a children with a missing or under-developed ear. This technique has been used for more than 40 years and has not seen much change over the years. It’s a very difficult operation and practice is the only way to attain perfection.
You will be amazed to know that Surgeons and practicing doctors typically use a bar of soap, carrot or an apple to practice the ear sculpting before the actual operation. These vegetables are used as the Rib Cartilage is a rare raw material but these vegetables make for a poor substitute to the real thing.
All this can change as coloration between University of Washington otolaryngology resident and bioengineering students used 3D printing to create a low-cost paediatric rib cartilage model that more closely resembles the feel of real cartilage and allows for realistic surgical practice. This new Technique could change the way and vastly improve the quality of medical help to people who have to go through Rib Cartilage Ear Construction operations.
The findings were published in the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery conference in Dallas.
Angelique Berens a lead author of the study is from the UW School of Medicine otolaryngology - head and neck surgery resident said "It's a huge advantage over what we're using today. You literally take a bar of Lever 2000 while the attending is operating and you carve ear cartilage. It does teach you how to get the shape right, but the properties are not super accurate - you can't bend it, and sewing it is not very lifelike."
Three experienced surgeons tested the 3D Printed molds to carving, bending and suturing the UW team's silicone models to reconstruct the ear. These 3D Printed molds were made by converting CT scanDiacom data from an 8 year old patient. The test surgeons were also made to compare the firmness, feel and suturing quality to real rib cartilage and other expensive material made out of dental impression material.3D Printed silicone molds came out as clear winner with all the surgeons unanimously voting for it.
Kathleen Sie, a UW Medicine professor of otolaryngology - head and neck surgery and director of the Childhood Communication Centre at Seattle Children's, said
“The lack of adequate training models makes it difficult for people to become comfortable performing the delicate and technical procedure, which is called auricular reconstruction. There's typically a six- to 12-month waiting list for children to have the procedure done at Seattle Children's.
It's a surgery that more people could do, but this is often the single biggest roadblock. They're hesitant to start because they've never carved an ear before. As many potatoes and apples as I've carved, it's still not the same."
Offers Customized Solution:
Ease of use is not the only advantage of these 3D Printed Molds. These molds are made using CT scans of Patients which makes them unique and highly customized. This not just helps the patients get personalized attention but also helps surgeon to better prepare themselves for tricky surgeries.
Talking about the way these 3D printed molds were created Sharon Newman the co-author of the study said I would go to the craft store and Home Depot and say I want to make models - what aisle should I go to? It turns out a lot of these ideas were based off of materials people use for arts and crafts like rings or other jewellery."
Now that the test are successful it would be interesting to see how quickly hospitals and medical schools make these 3D Printed Molds available for surgeons to work on. If and when it happens it would add another feather to the 3D Printing cap.