Cancer survivor Shirley Anderson gets a 3D printed jaw prosthesis
Evansville, Indiana resident Shirley Anderson was diagnosed with a cancerous lump on his tongue in 1998. Since, he had endured a series of radiation therapies and surgeries including an implant in the jaw, which left him with destroyed facial tissues. Surgeons even went as far as removing a patch of his chest muscles to recreate the jaw but failed miserably, leaving Shirley without a jaw and Adam’s apple. The condition meant, he was unable to eat solid food or even speak (he uses a small whiteboard to write what he wants to say). Reminded of the events, Della Anderson, Shirley’s wife (who he is married for last fifty years), “It’s kind of been one bad thing after another.”
Things began to change for Shirley in 2012, when the couple met Dr. Travis Bellicchi a maxillofacial prosthetics specialist and resident at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. Recognizing Shirley’s case as a stiff medical challenge, Dr. Travis began at working on an artificial jaw. Using traditional techniques, Dr. Travis tried a few traditional prosthesis made from clay and silicone but these could not be worn for more than four hours.
Finding a digital solution, Dr. Travis came into contact with Indiana University student Cade Jacobs who using CT scan data and 3D facial scans of Shirley arrived at a jaw prosthesis designed using ZBrush 3D sculpturing software. Explaining the ease of design, Jacobs says,
They really couldn’t believe how easy it was. They had been struggling to get the same results for a long time when they were using the traditional process.
The team then using a Formlabs 3D printer turned the design into a 3D printed silicon prosthesis. The 3D printed prosthesis is more realistic, its much lighter and way more breathable, which makes Shirley feel comfortable wearing for longer periods.
For specialists and 3D designers at IU process used on Shirley, termed the Shirley Technique has become an inspiration and is being used with many other patients.