Repairing skull damage
Every year, thousands of people suffer damage to the skull as a result of trauma to the head or operations to remove brain tumours. These people may require cranioplasty – the surgical repair of a skull defect.
There may be areas where bone is lost and these are sometimes covered with a prosthesis, or ‘plate’. This needs to fit perfectly to provide critical protection for the brain, while at the same time reducing symptoms stemming from the injury or surgery and restoring the person’s natural appearance so the defect is not disfiguring.
During the 1990s, Action Medical Research funded a group of researchers at University College London to test a novel technique they had developed to create better-fitting plates. Their new method used scanning and computerised model building to construct more accurate plates out of titanium.
This technique is now being used regularly in the UK as a service for people with skull deformities. The plates are quicker and more accurate to surgically fit than older methods, and are very durable with a low chance of infection. This means benefits for patients and surgeons, as well as healthcare savings.