Cranioplasty is a commonly performed neurosurgical procedure used to repair defects of the cranial vault. For large defects, 3D printing allows for the creation of patient-specific synthetic cranioplasties. Although these implants provide excellent cosmetic results for patients, costs are quite high. This makes their routine use challenging in the current Canadian healthcare environment. The purpose of this study is to report our experience with a novel, cost-effective method for cranioplasty using desktop 3D printers to manufacture patient-specific molds to aid in the shaping of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) cranioplasty intraoperatively.
A retrospective review of patients who underwent cranioplasty utilizing 3D printed custom molds was conducted at a single center between 2018 and 2020. Either a two-piece self-align or open-air mold was utilized. Material cost, as well as demographic, clinical, and radiologic data, was reviewed. A five-point ordinance scale was used to evaluate patient satisfaction with cosmesis.
Four patients had previous craniectomies with infected bone flaps, 2 patients had significant bony destruction from tumor invasion, and 1 patient had bone flap resorption. Three patients underwent an open-air mold technique with a Ti-mesh/PMMA-combined implant. The remaining 4 patients underwent two-piece mold with PMMA-only implant. All patients had ‘Good’ to ‘Excellent’ cosmetic outcome with one post-operative acute subdural hematoma and one post-operative infection. Two-piece mold resulted in improved cosmetic outcome and cost savings.
3D printing can be used in a cost-effective manner to deliver good cranioplasty cosmesis. Wider adoption of this technique can result in significant healthcare cost savings without compromising patient outcome.