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Collaboration enables novel surgery

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The surgical team that performed the successful operation. From the left are, front: Dr Irshaad Abdoola, Marcia Pitso, Glenda Potgieter and Naomi Gertse; back: Dr Wilbur van Biljon, Dr Dennis Tewson, Prof. Cules van den Heever, Matron Henriette van Vuuren and Dr Charles van Niekerk. Photo: Supplied
The surgical team that performed the successful operation. From the left are, front: Dr Irshaad Abdoola, Marcia Pitso, Glenda Potgieter and Naomi Gertse; back: Dr Wilbur van Biljon, Dr Dennis Tewson, Prof. Cules van den Heever, Matron Henriette van Vuuren and Dr Charles van Niekerk. Photo: Supplied

The Centre for Rapid Proto­typing and Manufacturing (CRPM) at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, has achieved yet another feat, relating to surgery on a patient with a benign tumour.

The successful pro bono operation was performed at the end of June in the new theatre wing of the EmoyaMed Private Hospital in Bloemfontein. A team of nine pactitioners removed the tumour from the patient’s lower jaw, using the facilities that were made available by the hospital at no cost.

This surgery sees the university continue to positively change the lives of people with its international award-winning 3D printing technology.

According to Prof. Cules van den Heever, a prosthodontist and clinical adviser to the CRPM, the surgery was the first of its nature in the centre’s 24 years of existence.

He explained that the project had begun with making the custom implant for the patient.

“We were contacted by Dr Charles van Niekerk, a surgeon at EmoyaMed, who is aware of the custom implants that the CRPM has been producing,” said Van den Heever.

“During the planning stages we worked from the computerised tomography (CT) scan of the patient. There was a tumour diagnosis on the right side of the jaw.

“From the planning and 3D printing done at the CUT, we performed the operation to remove the tumour, replacing the jaw with a 3D printed titanium jaw.”

Dr Willie Wiid, chief executive officer of the EmoyaMed Hospital, explained that the operation had marked the inauguration of the new theatre complex.

“Because this procedure was not fully covered by the medical aid, we decided to provide the facility for free,” he said.

Van den Heever mentioned that a project of this nature would not be possible without collaboration.

“The CUT is currently the world leader when it comes to 3D printed titanium and cobalt implants, and it’s all happening here in Bloemfontein.

“We employ technology that is not available anywhere else.”

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