Revolutionising Medical Recovery: 3D-Printed Prosthetics Offer New Hope


Retiree J.F. Lian’s battle with skin cancer in 2022 led to a life-altering surgery that removed most of his external nose. Accustomed to the gaping void on his face, he accepted it as his new reality. 

However, a revolutionary proposal from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in Singapore offered a new path forward.

3D-Printed Breakthrough

TTSH’s Medical 3D Printing Centre offered to craft a 3D-printed prosthetic nose in November 2022, using scans of Lian’s face as a blueprint. This innovative approach ensured a near-perfect replica of his original nose, alleviating the risk of potential skin cancer recurrence associated with traditional cosmetic reconstructions.

Embracing Innovation

Mr. Lian’s eagerness to try this cutting-edge solution was rewarded on March 7, 2023. After a meticulous process of fittings and redesigns spanning nearly four months, he walked out of TTSH wearing a custom-designed nose that blended seamlessly with his skin. Freed from the anxiety of insects finding their way into his nose, Lian now plans to wear his 3D-printed nose even while sleeping.

A Beacon of Hope

The success of this pioneering project opens a new realm of possibilities for other patients in need of custom-designed prostheses. TTSH’s current projects extend this innovation to 3D-printed prosthetic fingers and more, gradually reshaping the face of personalised medicine.

A Stride towards Confidence

Dr Lim Ming Yann, head of otorhinolaryngology at TTSH, emphasises the confidence-restoring power of such prosthetic noses. Unfortunately, traditional methods can fall short of patient expectations, making 3D printing a promising alternative.

Mastering the Art of 3D-Printed Prosthetics

Creating a realistic 3D-printed prosthetic nose involves a meticulous process. The key challenges include achieving a proper fit and replicating the user’s unique skin tone.

The Power of 3D Medical Printing

TTSH’s Medical 3D Printing Centre, operational since 2020, utilises 3D images to create accurate models of patients’ organs. Additionally, it aids in diagnosis and treatment planning. Dr Michael Yam, orthopaedic surgeon and head of the centre, recognises the potential of 3D printing in preoperative planning and patient education.

Overcoming Obstacles

The journey to a realistic prosthetic nose presented unexpected hurdles. The prosthetic, while accurately modelled, initially lacked a realistic colour. Collaborating with cosmetic experts from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), the team created a meticulously hand-painted prosthetic that matched Mr Lian’s skin tone.

Looking Ahead

This success has paved the way for more advancements. Subsequently, Dr Yam envisages this service benefiting all patients requiring nose prostheses. Simultaneously, ITE’s beauty and wellness course lecturers look forward to collaborating on future prosthetics, imparting a sense of meaningful contribution among their students. As the world continues to embrace the power of 3D-printed prosthetics, the sky’s the limit for what the future holds.

Photo credit: Feline Lim/ Straits Times

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