Laurent Lantieri’s office contains shelves lined with plastic replica skulls, each representing a patient operated on. There are many with missing eye sockets, jawbones, and other significant deformities. Only the most seriously injured or disfigured patients visit Lantieri, most of whom have undergone serious accidents or suffer from genetic diseases. His work can help them to recover from the trauma of this as well as the discomfort and loss of functions, and puts them on the way to having a normal life again and 3D printing has become a key part of his process. In 2010, he and his team at the Georges Pompidou Hospital successfully achieved the world’s first full facial transplant, and he continues his inspiring and pioneering work there to this day.
Before 3D printing technology became more accessible, Lantieri used to make use of CT scans and standard surgical equipment, to try and approximate a reconstruction of the patient’s face or head. He would search through thousands of boxes of generic plates, casts, and screws in the hope of finding something that would fit.
With the help of 3D scanning Lentieri is able to take a CT scan and create a virtual 3D model of a patient’s face from it. This is then used as a guide to build implants that are specific to a patient’s anatomy. A shattered cheekbone on the left side of a person’s face, for example, is replaced with a mirror image from the right side. This means that the fit will be perfectly comfortable and the results will be much more aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound.
According to Lanieri, 3D printing has completely revolutionized the way his surgery practice operates: “In the past, I was just guessing,” he says. “We never had the correct shape. But using 3D-printed skulls — to have them in my own hands — to determine what are the difficulties, where are the impediments in advance, it makes a huge difference.”
David. “Dr. Laurent Lantieri: 3D Printing Is Revolutionizing Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.” 3ders.Org, 4 Aug. 2017, www.3ders.org/articles/20170804-dr-laurent-lantieri-3d-printing-is-revolutionizing-facial-plastic-and-reconstructive-surgery.html.