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A New Face for Violet

Almost-two-year-old Violet Pietrok’s facial bones didn’t fuse together prenatally, leaving her with a syndrome called Tessier Cleft. Her eyes were so far apart that she couldn’t see properly, and her nose had no cartilage. Dr. John Meara at Boston Children’s Hospital wanted to help Violet. He had done this kind of surgery before, but every patient is different, and the bone reconstruction will be different for each one. That’s where 3D printing comes in. Dr. Meara had his colleague Dr. Peter Weinstock made 3D models of the toddler’s skull, using data from magnetic resonance imaging. Meara was able to practice with four skull models, in order to develop the best plan for Violet’s surgery ahead of time.

Dr. Weinstock, the director of the Pediatric Simulator Program at Boston Children’s, sees 3-D models as part of a larger program to improve surgical craft. At Children’s and a dozen other pediatric centers around the world, he says, the surgical simulation program he developed improves team communication and trust, and lifts confidence before extremely complex operations. He believes it also shortens patients’ time under anesthesia.

If the nearly two-year-old program has prevented even one major medical error — and Dr. Weinstock is convinced it has prevented many — it has paid for itself and its $400,000 3-D printer, running nearly full time in the hospital’s basement.

Dr. Meara was able to move Violet’s eyes closer together and eliminate a large hole in her forehead. She will have more surgery as she grows, but the first step was made much easier by the practice skulls. Read the whole story at the New York Times. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Credit Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Children's Hospital)


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This is incredible! One of my neighbors has a daughter that has the same issue with her eyes and I was interested in searching possible cures. I have heard of 3D printers, but I never realized what they were capable of producing in the medical field. Thanks for the article.
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Four hundred grand for a 3D printer? Guess I won't be getting one. Maybe it's super accurate, but is the resolution from the MRI as good as the printer?
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