Combining all sorts of relevant medical data in a complex 3D computer model should improve the way we do face transplantations. This is much needed, as accidents leaving patients with a disfigured face often leave permanent marks. Because we use our face to express and present ourselves, being able to perform better reparations can give disfigured people a much better life.
Creating 3D models
The sophisticated 3D models were created by the University of Pittsburgh and consist of data gathered by several medical techniques, such as CT scans and MRI. Consequently, the information is incorporated into a single model using highly specialized modelling software. Coincidentally, the same software is used by the film industry to create 3D models in animated movies.
Benefits for doctors
Putting all the acquired information in a single model is a great help to the team of surgeons that is performing the face transplantation. Doing the surgery requires knowledge of several tissue types, varying from blood vessels, muscles, bones and nerves. A complete picture also gives more insight into the damage a patient has sustained. An integrated approach could tell the surgeons whether the bones could give support to transplanted layers of muscles, for example.
Benefits for patients
According to the researchers, the new 3D modelling software will mostly be utilized for patients with severe facial damage. The main focus is to restore the ability to eat, smell and express facial emotions. Currently, the new method is being tested in the clinic, and if it works it might just be a major improvement in a situation that can render someone unable to function in life.