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    3-D Printer Creates Orbital Prosthesis

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    In his quest for a low-cost prosthesis to minimize the “devastating psychological trauma” of facing the world with an empty orbital socket, David T. Tse, MD, FACS, turned to 3-D printing. This novel technology has been used to fabricate everything from jewelry to astronaut tools. Dr. Tse and a team at the University of Miami’s Composite Materials Lab have harnessed it to make an orbital prosthesis that is less expensive and more easily obtained than conventionally fabricated models.

    How 3-D printing works. A mobile scanner captures images of both the empty socket and the eye and eyelids on the undamaged side. Computer software then creates a mirror image of the normal side to fit over the empty socket. Finally, the computer directs a 3-D printer to “print” the actual prosthesis by building up successive layers of polymer, suffused with a nanoclay, that match the patient’s skin tone and iris color. 

    Advantages. 3-D printing has several advantages over the conventional fabrication process, said Dr. Tse, at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, where he is a professor of ophthalmology and the Nasser Ibrahim Al-Rashid Chair in Ophthalmic Plastic, Orbital Surgery, and Oncology. The process reduces costs substantially, from $15,000 to $500, and it’s fast. It captures an individual’s unique coloration and orbital defect geometry for optimal match and fit. And the digital scans can be acquired remotely, enabling access in places where skilled ocularists are rare.

    The process is being fine-tuned, but the goal is to soon offer prostheses to patients anywhere in the world, Dr. Tse said. “The exenterated socket and the normal eye can be scanned remotely, and the data downloaded in Miami for fabrication. The 3-D–printed prosthesis can be mailed to the patient the next day.”

    —Miriam Karmel 

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    Dr. Tse reports no related financial interests.

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