The RMH's Facial Prosthesis, Brenton Cadd, recipeient Colleen Murrary and Deakin University's Engineer, Dr Mazher Mohammed.JPG
30 June 2016
News Category: 
Patient and health stories

Royal Melbourne Hospital and Deakin University researchers have transformed the life of a Geelong woman after creating Australia's first 3D prosthetic ear. 

Colleen Murray lost her left ear in a car accident more than 50 years ago. After decades of having to glue her prosthetic ear on every day, Colleen was chosen as a test case for a new ear developed with 3D using technology.

Facial Prosthetists at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Engineers at Deakin University combined their expertise to create the new prosthetic ear. Using the latest 3D printing technology a more life-like mould was created and used to reconstruct Colleen’s left ear, in a fraction of time and with greater reproduction of her original anatomy, compared to the traditional methods.

Dr Mazher Mohammed, Research Fellow in Advanced Design at Deakin University’s School of Engineering, said the creation of Colleen’s new ear from a CT scan was made in just a few clicks of a button.

“The joy of doing this with a CT scan means we also get absolute precision to create a life-like model of an ear,” Dr Mohammed said.

“It’s a real life replicate of Colleen’s own ear and I believe this technology puts Australia’s at the forefront of revolutionising the creation of facial prosthetics and other patient specific anatomical parts.”

The prosthetic ear magnetically clips onto three small titanium fixtures that are surgically implanted into bone on the side of Colleen’s head. Through a process called oseointergration the bone grows onto the titanium fixtures. In a second procedure transdermal abutments are screwed into the fixtures and then a magnet keeper is screwed into the abutment. The prosthetic ear contains the three magnets that exactly align with the three magnet keepers on the side of Colleens head providing a very easy to use and secure method of attachment.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Head of Facial Prosthetics, Brenton Cadd, said the successful creation of Collen’s left ear with 3D printing will pave the way for future facial prosthetics to be made by this process.

“This is an exciting time for facial prosthetics in Australia with 3D printing setting a new standard in the creation of prosthetics,” Mr Cadd said.

“This technology allows us to produce more realistic facial prosthetics faster, saving hours of modelling and reducing the patient’s visit to the hospital.

“It also means that our patients can get back to enjoying their lives more quickly without restricting their activities or hiding away until their prosthesis is complete.”

For Colleen Murray her new 3D ear closes a chapter in her life that has always felt incomplete.

“I was very excited and honoured to be the first person in Australia to have this procedure done,” Ms Murray said.

“I now get part of my body that I lost a long time ago. I won’t have the embarrassment of gluing my ear on, it falling off sometimes, or the worry that it is going to fall off. Most importantly of all, it is going to make me feel better within myself.”

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