UCT invents bone reconstruction device
Johannesburg - A new device has been developed at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to bring back the smiles to people with upper jaw abnormalities.
Maxillo-facial surgeon Rushdi Hendricks, who designed the device with two mechanical engineers, said on Friday this way of treating jaw problems was superior.
"I am growing bone as well as bone lining. Not only that; I'm also concentrating on your smile; on the aesthetics; the way the teeth are going to sit in your mouth."
Hendricks, UCT engineer George Vicatos and Masters student James Boonzaier, designed a plate-guided distractor to grow new bone in the upper jaw.
The device could be explained as a hose clamp made to work as a crawler on a track. As the bone grows, the hose clamp is moved to allow the bone to extend.
The principle behind the invention was that new bone and tissue developed to fill the gap when a carefully severed bone was pulled apart.
A similar method for regrowing the lower jaw - distraction osteogenesis - was already in use.
However, it was believed that the UCT team and Hendricks were the first to use it on the more complex upper jaw.
Last year, the procedure was successfully performed on two people.
In September, a cancer survivor, who lost half her palate due to cancer, underwent the ground-breaking procedure. Her palate took about a month to regrow.
In October, another patient had the device fitted and an 80mm gap in the palate and three-quarters of the upper jaw were filled.
"The value of this surgery lies in more than just the clever mechanics and the first-of-a-kind surgery," Hendricks said.
"It also has the potential to change the entire maxillo-facial surgery world, and the lives of untold patients."