By Printing Skulls, We’re Improving Lives

May 15, 2018

Skulls may be a symbol of death, but we’re using them to make a better life for some of our youngest patients.

Dr. Jonathan Black, one of our plastic surgeons, is using life-sized, 3D-printed skulls to  prepare for surgery on tiny babies born with skull deformities. His youngest patient was just two weeks old. “The child was born with too small a lower jaw and the tongue was rolling back into the throat and choking her,” he recalled.

Black had to cut and stretch the baby’s jaw — a difficult task on a skull so tiny. Using the 3D model, Black measured the jaw and knew beforehand exactly how he needed to conduct the procedure.  That made for a better outcome for that patient and many others, including adult trauma patients.

UVA Today has the full scoop, both on how the skulls are being used clinically and on how they’re helping train young plastic surgeons.

The skulls are printed by Dwight Dart, design lab engineer in the School of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. It’s a wonderful collaboration that makes for a great follow-up to my last post.

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