Stephanie Benoit April 7, 2016
Bon Verweij is a neurosurgeon at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He first became fascinated by 3D Printing over ten years ago, and has tried to use the technology to improve his capacities as a surgeon ever since. One of the first areas of neurosurgery he could imagine innovating with 3D Printing was the skull.

As he spoke about during his TED Talk at TEDxUtrecht, neurosurgeons often need to remove parts of the skull in order to be able to operate on the brain, and putting the separated part back into the patient’s head can sometimes cause infections, thereby necessitating the use of cranial implants. The traditional method of closing up a skull is with a paste that the surgeon applies manually, but there are several flaws to this method – the paste hardens quickly, which doesn’t afford the surgeon a large window of opportunity, and the patching up can often be less than stellar because it’s all judged by the surgeon’s own hand. Because he wanted to give his patients a more natural head shape (and thereby avoid problematic reintegration into society, as well as potential neurological dangers), Dr. Verweij felt 3D Printing was the way to go. For one very unique case, he replaced a complete cranium using 3D technology. The patient had a rare condition where the bone of her skull kept growing thicker, which meant her brain and cerebellum were getting compressed. It caused her a lot of pain, and impaired her ability to walk or balance herself, even causing growing blindness. For Dr. Verweij, the best solution was simply to remove the skull, and give his patient a completely new cranium with 3D technology so it would match her head exactly.

Dr. Verweij holding the 3D printed skull | Courtesy of TEDxUtrecht

Dr. Verweij holding the 3D printed skull | Courtesy of TEDxUtrecht