Summary: With all the technology available these days, you might be wondering if it’s possible for you to 3D print your nose. It’s true that every year, 3D printing technology becomes more sophisticated, more competitive. That’s why we don’t think it will be long now before those technologies make their way into the surgeon’s office.
3D Printing in Cosmetic Surgery
If you haven’t been paying attention to 3D printing technology, you might be surprised at just how far we’ve come. Now, researchers are talking about how we’re tantalizingly close to being able to print medical devices—so, in theory, you might be able to 3D print your nose when you get a rhinoplasty. Well, at least, sort of.
Perhaps you are not familiar with how 3D printing works. This is a really amazing and novel technology, so you’ll forgive us if we’re buying into the hype a little bit here. Essentially, with a 3D printer, you can make three dimensional objects one tiny layer at a time. In fact, people are already using 3D printers to create bicycles and other vehicles.
The next big thing, according to many researchers and scholars, are 3D printed organs. Imagine if you could just print up the kidney you need (layer by layer) instead of waiting for a transplant. There are cosmetic and aesthetic applications to this kind of medical 3D printing as well.
Currently, if you want to increase the size of your nose or change the structure of your nasal bridge significantly, you will have to get a nasal implant. This implant is often constructed of silicone, which means that you don’t have a whole lot of control over the final look or shape of your nose implant.
Think of it like a breast implant (they are, after all, the same basic material). Most breast implants are a common shape or size. They’re mass-produced. But with 3D printing technology, that could be changing. We could start to see custom printed implants.
A silicone implant for your nose might not suit your needs perfectly. The implant may have to be altered. But if you can 3D print your implant, you can total control over what it looks like. This means you get a nasal implant that is unique and custom to you, ensuring you get the best results possible.
Using Your Own Biology
The best part is that the custom implant does not have to be constructed of silicone, necessarily. Instead, a 3D printer could conceivably use your very own cells as a base. This makes sense if you’re trying to print an organ. A kidney, heart, or liver would need to be “printed” in a material that the body won’t reject.
For most patients, that means starting with your own skin cells and letting the printer “copy” those cells for layering. It’s a remarkable technology, and all the bugs aren’t quite worked out yet, but there some fantastic benefits that could be had should the technology pan out. Those benefits may include:
- Donor material that is almost guaranteed to be accepted by the body
- In aesthetic circumstances, a significant degree of control over the final appearance of the implant
- In aesthetic circumstances, a natural-looking result
- Better and faster healing
- Being able to aid in healing (for example, by printing new skin instead of using a skin graft
- More immediate results (patients would not have to wait on a donor waiting list, for example)
There could also be benefits in terms of the costs of the procedure, although this is a little difficult to predict when the reality is a little ways out. It’s a definite possibility that you could have breast implants composed of your own tissue and custom molded to your body. And it’s also likely you could have a nasal implant created just for you.
And while general medical advances might not be the focus of this blog, we can’t help but admit how cool it is that one day, you might also be able to procure a custom liver right when you need one.
How Long Before I Can Ask my Surgeon About 3D Printing?
To be certain, 3D printing in a medical field is still pretty novel—even a little exotic. It will take some time for the technology to develop to the point where it is reliable enough to use in a medical or aesthetic setting. But one thing is for sure: surgeons are always pushing the envelope, looking for ways to deliver better results.
That’s why I don’t think it will be long before you can really ask about 3D printed implants from your plastic surgeon. If they’re shown to produce superior results, especially over time, than I have no doubt that the technology will become widely adopted. So, will you be able to 3D print your nose? Sure—at least in part.