3D computer models for surgeries are now built in a process that is similar to the technique used in Hollywood blockbuster movies. 3D CT, CT angiography, MRI and high-definition tractography deliver the data and allow plastic surgeons to reconstruct a realistic 3D model of a patients' neck and head anatomy and offer much more sophisticated physical layout of patients that have suffered substantial facial injuries.
A team led by Darren Smith, a plastic surgery resident at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), also uses an approach in which a patient model was covered with a polygon mesh of a generic human face. The physicians then customized it to the anatomy of the patient.
"We have integrated data from multiple imaging sources into a single 3D representation that allows for real-time user interaction and modification," Smith said. "In assessing eligibility for this procedure, it is critical to understand whether the patient has enough blood vessels and bone structure to support new facial tissue. This 3D modeling helps us customize the procedure to the patient's individual anatomy so that the donor tissue will fit like a puzzle piece onto the patient's face."
According to the physicians, face transplantation applies to patients who have suffered injuries such as electric burns or blast wounds and have lost their ability to smell, eat and engage socially and have no other conventional treatment options. Transplants can rebuild functions like breathing, chewing and speaking. The hope is that advanced 3D modeling will help patients to regain their former appearance as well.