“We do at least 40 major head and neck reconstructions per year. Around 10 to 15 cases will be done in this way using the printer,” Gahir told the Stoke Sentinel newspaper.
“Some of the leg bone was taken then reshaped, as you have to replace bone with bone. We took away some of the skin from the leg as well and replanted it back into the neck,” he said, as he explained about the 12-hour delicate surgery conducted on his patient Stephen Waterhouse recently.
Waterhouse’s jawbone had disintegrated after he underwent radiotherapy treatment for his throat cancer a few years ago.
He was left with a crumbling jawbone which Gahir was able to reconstruct using bone from his leg.
“If you leave 7 cm of the leg bone on either side, you can take the rest as it carries only about 20 per cent of the body weight maximum,” Gahir said.
The Royal Stoke University Hospital is the only hospital in the UK to offer such a facility, having acquired the expensive printer around two years ago.
“If patients could not have it done here, they would have to be sent to Germany for it. Not only is that expensive, but it is a waste of time too. Cancers do not wait, they keep growing. It is better for the patient too as they do not worry as much,” Gahir said.
After the surgery, patients have to spend five days in a high dependency unit and up to another 14 days on a ward where they are fed food through their nose.
Waterhouse is now fully recovered and all praise for the “superb” medical care he received.