Surgery using 3-D printer reshapes toddler’s face

Violet Pietrok
(Courtesy: ABC News)

BOSTON (WKRN) – A girl who had her face reshaped thanks to 3-D printing is now smiling and laughing again nearly six months after her operation.

Violet Pietrok, 2, was born with a rare condition called frontonasal dysplasia, which results in a widening of certain facial features, including the nose and space between the eyes and a large central cleft in her face.

Violet underwent major surgery at Boston’s Children’s Hospital in October.

“She’s fantastic. She’s taking it all in stride,” Violet’s mother, Alicia Taylor, told ABC News. “She’s so happy … all the time. If she’s not smiling, she’s generally asleep or throwing a fit.”

Violet Pietrok
(Courtesy: ABC News)

Just 100 cases of frontonasal dysplasia have been documented, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Due to the unique way Violet’s skull was shaped, Dr. John Meara, the plastic surgeon-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, used a 3-D printer to create models of Violet’s skull over time.

“The value of the model like this is huge,” Meara told ABC News. “This gives me the ability to see on this model better than I will in the operating room.”

The operation lasted over six hours. The doctors brought in the 3-D models to the operating room and when they ran into a complication, they used the models to find a solution.

Dr. Meara and his team even used the models to practice for the surgery ahead of time.

“This allows us to understand what needed to be modified or addressed on the model before making an incision or bone cuts in the [operating room],” Meara said. “For Violet, I actually modified my osteotomies [bone cuts] based on something that I was able to see happening in the model.”

Violet’s mother said her daughter remained a happy child in the months leading up to the surgery and just as happy throughout her recovery.

“She’s fantastic even with the surgery,” said Taylor. “She still was just sweet and compliant and she tried to smile.”

Meara is delighted with the surgery results and does not anticipate any major issues for Violet in the future.

“I have high hopes for her,” Meara told ABC News. “She is so bright — in both personality and cognitive ability. I will want to see her and follow up on her progress every year. At some point in the future she may require some revisions procedures.”

Violet’s mother said her daughter will have to undergo more procedures as she grows up, including rhinoplasty to add cartilage to her nose and another to adjust her eyelids.

“We love her new face, but we miss her old face,” Taylor said of Violet. “I was so worried that they were going to take her and she was going to be unrecognizable. … I miss that little face because you love it.”

Violet’s mother wanted to share her family’s story so people would be aware of the condition and not shocked by it. “If you see someone staring at you and [they] turn and walk off, it makes you feel different and it will make her feel shunned,” she said.

“It would be far better if they introduce themselves and say, ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so, I wondered if you can explain to [my kids] what happened,'” Taylor said.

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