Made to measure

Researchers use 3D printing technology to create biocompatible eye implants for children born with abnormally small or missing eyes

23 May 2017 by Selina Powell

Babies born with small or missing eyes were fitted with 3D printed implants in a small study by Dutch scientists. 

The results were presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual conference (7–11 May, Baltimore).

The technology provides artificial support to the eye sockets of children with microphthalmia and anophthalmia to prevent facial deformities as the child ages.

Traditionally a child who is missing an eye would be fitted with an ocular prosthesis, but these devices take time to construct. 

Using a 3D printed implant, known as a conformer, addresses the challenge of making sure the implant is the right size as a baby or child grows. 

The technology is fast and relatively inexpensive, allowing the implant to be replaced frequently with slightly altered dimensions to accommodate for growth. 

In the study cohort, four babies were fitted with the first of a series of eye orbit conformers following MRIs and the creation of impression moulds. 

A set of conformers of increasing size were given to parents, who were taught to replace the conformer with a larger one as soon as it would fit in the eye socket. 

The researchers report that eye cavity volumes were on average 35% of reference eye volumes, compared to 7.6% if no treatment was given. 

Image credit: Jonathan Juursema


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