Cranioplasty is a research field that has dominated the interest of neurosurgeons and engineers urging them to constantly introduce new technologies. These are usually based on Computer Topographies (CT) and Rapid Prototyping (RP) to produce customized cranial implants, not only allowing thorough preoperative evaluation but also providing elevated implant precision, thus ensuring lower rejection rates of the implant. Recent developments in Computer Assisted Cranioplasty (CAC) facilitate the integration of microstructured characteristics, such as designed porosity into the manufacturing process of the implant. This in conjunction with the exact representation of the trauma and density related information of the vicinal bone tissue, obtained through CT, renders it possible to determine the optimum mechanical properties of the desired implant.
The researchers have designed prototype cranial implants based on varying skull traumas. The geometries were generated based on CT scans and the mechanical properties of the alloplast implant tailored to the specific needs of the patient, in terms of strength and impact absorption with regard to osseointegration and osseoconductivity. This was achieved by integrating designed trabecular structures and thus modifying the materials bulk elasticity modulus while assessing the corresponding effect on bio-physiological parameters. Advanced Finite Element (FE) simulations facilitated the determination of the implants optimum fixation as to screw position and directionality.
Applications (existing / potential)
Several journal and conference publications have been issued based on which, the leading researchers of the team have found a spin-off company aiming to produce advanced custom made implants for craniofacial reconstruction and related application. Some early stage samples of porous Ti6Al4V as well as PMMA implants have been produced with rapid prototyping and other techniques. These specimens were evaluated while their mechanical behaviour examined and the results unfolded a promising research field with endless applications in craniofacial reconstruction.
The potential of further research in this field could speed up the process of bringing these implants to the market, a possibility surgeons are really looking forward to.