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Dr Ken Stewart tells the BBC about 3d technology in reconstructive surgery

In addition to his work as consultant plastic and aesthetic surgeon with Refine, Ken Stewart is the principle surgeon and lead of the Scottish Ear Reconstruction service. The team builds new ears for children born with very small ears (microtia) and for adults who have the misfortune to lose their ears.

Ken was recently interviewed by BBC Scotland’s science correspondent Kenneth Macdonald and explained how the 3D technology has transformed his team’s work.

“We’ve been making ears since 2004 and were designated as the Scottish centre for excellence in 2008,” explains Ken. “The principle material for ear reconstruction is rib cartilage. However we are, in association with the Edinburgh University Centre for Regenerative Medicine, working on stem cell projects with a view to browning ears in the lab."

“3D scanning and 3D printing was a natural progression for our service. Using video technology, we’re able to scan the patient’s normal ear, then mirror image and 3D print the missing ear, which is then sterilised and used as a template to facilitate carving in the operating theatre.”

The ultimate aim for the team is to combine these areas of endeavour by 3D scanning the normal ear, printing a mirror image in a cell comparable matrix then seeding it with the patient’s own stem cells before implanting the home grown ear.

In the cosmetic arena, Ken's reconstructive cartilage work and cartilage carving skills are transferable to both otoplasty and rhinoplasty surgery. In particular, secondary reconstruction work after otoplasty or rhinoplasty frequently necessitates the use of cartilage grafts.

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