Peek behind the paper: virtual planning and 3D printing in maxillofacial surgery

Written by Syahir Hassan

In this ‘Peek behind the paper’ interview, Syahir Hassan provides a closer look at virtual planning and 3D printing in maxillofacial surgery as described in the recent Case Series, available ahead of print via the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine.

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Syahir Hassan: biography

Syahir HassanI am Syahir Hassan, an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon currently working in the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department at Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Hospital in the Pahang state of Malaysia. My interest in 3D printing has grown since 2015 when I owned a 3D printer and set up my 3D printing lab. Since then, I found out that 3D printing has become an ultimate game changer in the surgical management of patients. Implementing virtual surgical planning and 3D printed templates/guides in surgery has become my routine in oral and maxillofacial reconstruction especially in managing benign and malignant tumors, orthognathic surgery and maxillofacial trauma.   

At present, I am actively receiving consultation for virtual surgical planning and 3D printing from hospitals all over Malaysia. Due to my passion in 3D printing, I have been invited as a speaker at various national conferences with the aim to educate other doctors in the applications of 3D printing in daily clinical practice. 


Could you please tell us a little about the background for your Case Series published in the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine 4(1)?  

The Case Series published in the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine is concerned with a surgeon-friendly protocol for in-house virtual planning (VP) and 3Dprinted templates in mandibular reconstruction. By implementing this protocol, surgeons can achieve faster and cheaper alternatives to commercial devices. 

>> If you would be interested in finding out more about submitting to the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine, click here to email the Managing Editor, Adam Price-Evans 

What challenges do you typically face when preparing patients for mandibular reconstruction surgeries?

The mandible is part of the facial bone with complex geometry and consists of other important structures, such as teeth. The main challenge was to reconstruct the mandible to have an acceptable function and aesthetic after pathological removal or secondary traumatic deformities. Traditional methods for mandibular reconstruction are solely based on surgeon experience and no surgical guide being used. This can increase surgical time and reduce accuracy. In addition, commercial VP and 3D printing services cannot be afforded by our patients, so we need to think of other alternatives for how we can improve surgery at the same time as reducing patient costs. 

How did virtual planning and 3D printing help to overcome these challenges?   

Vand 3D printing is like driving a car with a map, where you have guide to your destination. You can predict your outcome beforehand and transfer it into surgery by using the pre-planned 3D model and surgical guide. As a result, mandibular reconstruction time can be reduced intra-operatively and high accuracy can be achieved. By using our in-house protocol, we can do VP and prepare all of the 3Dprinted hardware in fewer than 12 hours compared to commercial services that took up to 2 weeks.  

How do you envision the tandem use of 3D printing and virtual planning being used for future surgical procedures within your institution 

Currently we are not limiting the usage of our in-house VP and 3D printing in mandibular reconstruction. These technologies have great potential where we are now using them for all our orbital wall reconstructions and complex orthognathic surgeries. 

What’s next for you and your team? Do you have any other projects or uses for technologies such as these in mind for the future? 

Currently we are working on digital workflow and implementing VP and 3D printing in the construction of maxillofacial prostheses. Again, this digital workflow will save a lot of time and reduce laborious work processes.   

Where do you see the use of 3D printing and/or virtual planning in surgery in 510 years’ time? 

3D printing and VP technologies in surgery are moving very fast as new hightech 3D printers and powerful software that can process and manipulate CT scan data are being produced.   

In 1years time, this technology could be made affordable and be implemented in every hospital in the world to improve surgical outcome. By that time, I hope more 3D printing materials can be made to mimic human natural structures such as bone or soft tissue so that surgeons can have a realistic model surgery before going for real surgery.   

In addition, a patient-specific, realistic 3Dprinted model can become a powerful educational tool for patients to understand their condition and for surgeons to explain their surgery. It will definitely enhance doctor-patient communication and facilitate a therapeutic effect for the patient. 


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The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of 3DMedNet or Future Science Group.