3D Printing and Rhinoplasty
A rhinoplasty is commonly known as a “nose job.” Some rhinoplasties are performed in an effort to make the size and shape of the nose fit in better with the rest of the face. Others are performed to correct breathing problems or rebuild the nose after an injury. One problem with the rhinoplasty procedure is communication between the surgeon and the patient about what the patient actually wants done. When it comes to discussing complicated architectural features of the face, words are often insufficient.
The advent of affordable 3D printing technology has brought a new tool to the plastic surgeon’s office. The surgeon can scan the patient’s existing face and “print out” a sculpture, or mask, of the existing face. Then, after discussing with the patient what the patient wants done, the surgeon can print out a “post” surgery mask for the patient to look at and make sure that is what they want done. Of course, if it isn’t, the patient can point out features to change and the mask can be re-printed until both the patient and surgeon are satisfied that they have successfully communicated about the work to be done.
3D printers create an image of the face out of powder. The powder is then fixed into place to create a sturdy mask-like sculpture of the face. Prior to 3D printing, the best tools for communicating between patient and surgeon were virtual 3D images of the patient’s face that were displayed on a screen. A major disadvantage of the image technology is that it cannot be felt. Most individuals are far more familiar with how their faces feel to the touch of their own hands than they are to how their faces look to others, and the 3D images were displaying how the face looked to others. With the masks, the patient can feel them and compare them to how their face feels now.
A major advantage of using 3D printing technology is that it improves communication between patient and surgeon. The patient knows exactly what the final result will look like and is therefore much more likely to be satisfied with the results of the surgery. The surgeon can be satisfied that the proposed changes have been fully understood and accepted by the patient. Everyone is happier.