A 3D printed jaw joint has been used in an Australian-first surgical procedure, to correct a young man’s rare congenital jaw deformity.

Epworth Freemasons’ Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon George Dimitroulis said:

“Many people suffer from jaw joint disorders such as painful clicking and jaw locking, with thousands undergoing surgery each year to treat advanced arthritic and other degenerative joint conditions.”

Richard Stratton, the patient, was born with condylar aplasia. He was missing a jaw joint called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) that resulted in a lack of growth in the left side of his face and a noticeably skewed lower jaw.

His condition also affected jaw motion, greatly restricting chewing capacity and facial expression.

Mr Dimitroulis led the surgical team that reconstructed the missing jaw with a custom-made jaw joint replacement. The joint was the result of collaboration between surgeons, research engineers from the School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, and medical devices company 3D Medical.

This new jaw joint replacement was printed in titanium and manufactured using the latest 3D metal printing capabilities.

Dr David Ackland, a senior lecturer and researcher in experimental muscle and joint biomechanics at the University of Melbourne, led the engineering design and testing of the joint replacement, and said the biomechanical and clinical results look promising.

“Working closely with maxillofacial surgeon Dr Dimitroulis, we helped to design, engineer and test this entirely new jaw joint prosthesis using state-of-the-art computational modelling we developed at the University of Melbourne,” he said.

“We believe the techniques we have developed and the latest 3D printing technology will facilitate a new direction in research and manufacture of implantable devices.”

“This case highlights the talents and capabilities we have here in Australia to design, develop, and manufacture our own high-tech medical devices,” Dr Ackland said.

Illustration: University of Melbourne

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