Belgium’s First Face Transplant: Achieved Using Digital Planning and 3D Printing

A remarkable team of plastic surgeons, led by Prof. Blondeel at the University Hospital of Ghent, have successfully executed Belgium’s first full face transplant. Although it was the world’s nineteenth face transplant, this was the first time that the complex procedure was fully planned using digital planning and 3D printing. During the 20 hour long procedure the patient, who suffered from a large facial defect, received bone, muscles, veins, nerves, and of course skin from a donor who had just died.

Pre-operative planning for both the donor and the recipient was completed in collaboration with Materialise CMF (cranio-maxillo facial) clinical engineers using ProPlan CMF. Using CT data, a digital representation of the patient’s anatomy was created and used in the formation of a detailed plan for this complex procedure. In order to put the surgical plan into action, anatomical models and patient specific surgical guides were 3D printed for use before and during the operation. The anatomical models allowed the surgeons to see below the skin of both the patient and the donor and carry out advanced preparation. The 3D printed guides were used during the procedure itself to aid the surgeons and allow them to realize the surgical plan they had created.

The entire CMF team at Materialise is proud of the contribution they have made to this incredible milestone in Belgian medical history.

Materialise would like to congratulate the team of 65 surgeons and medical staff at the University Hospital of Ghent for successfully completing this remarkable procedure. This is an incredible achievement, even more so given that the patient is already making a recovery that surpasses expectations; regaining the ability to speak only 6 days into recovery.

For those that understand Dutch, a video interview is available outlining the procedure at:

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