MTC technology helps in life-saving operations

A young girl seriously hurt in a road accident successfully came through a life-saving skull operation, with the help of a team of scientists and engineers at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry.

Experts at the MTC used the centre’s advanced three dimensional modelling technology to generate a template of a large piece of the girl’s skull needed to repair a large hole resulting from the accident.

The girl, who can’t be identified, needed the operation at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital. The complex cranioplasty surgery involved the precision replacement of a large piece of skull.

Using a CT scanner, surgeons took precise digital measurements of the patient’s skull. This data was then sent to the MTC to be converted into a 3D model of the girl’s anatomy.

Engineers at the MTC embarked on a rapid generation of a model of the damaged region of the skull using advanced three dimensional additive manufacturing equipment supplied by MTC member, HP.

The model produced by the MTC was used by Dr Frank Johnson, consultant anaplastologist at the Northern General Hospital, to generate a ceramic former which was used to shape a sheet of thin titanium to cover the hole. The whole process from initial despatch of the data from the hospital to the new titanium plate being put in place took less than a week.

David Wimpenny, Chief Technologist for component technologies at the MTC, said the technology used provides an unrivalled level of accuracy.

He said, “The precision of the process eliminated the need to modify the plates in theatre. This meant a much shorter operation, less than 1 hour, which was safer for the patient due to the reduced surgical trauma and also reduces the cost of the procedure.

Work is now underway at the MTC to use the next generation of additive manufacturing machines, which can produce directly complex metal implants offering even greater benefits, including design freedom, enabling patients to be treated more effectively and efficiently.

"This is a great example of how technology developed at the MTC for manufacturing automotive and aerospace parts can be used for other purposes. Not only is this technology effective in medical terms, it dramatically reduces the cost of complex cranial surgery and compresses the time involved."
David Wimpenny, MTC

The Manufacturing Technology Centre, based on Ansty Park, Coventry, opened in 2011 following a £40 million cash injection from the West and East Midlands development agencies. It is a partnership between some of the UK’s major global manufacturers and three forward-thinking universities: Birmingham, Nottingham and Loughborough as well as TWI Ltd, the operating division of The Welding Institute.

The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy.

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