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Mar 04. 2019

How complex design can be used to shorten surgery time

Dr Hanna Burton, Design Research Engineer in Surgical & Prosthetic Design, was shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to present her work as part of STEM for Britain. This annual competition encourages, supports and promotes Britain's early-stage and early-career research scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians who are an essential part of continuing progress in and development of UK research.

Hanna’s poster presentation showed how complex design can be used to shorten surgery time, improve surgical accuracy and simplify the treatment of complex cases. Surgical intervention has associated complications, which increase with procedure complexity. For nearly two decades, 3D physical models of patient anatomy produced from medical scan data have been used to assist in the crude process of shaping metal by hand to create an implant to fill a defect. However, the process of bending metal to create an implant is restrictive, and complex cases are often left untreated.

The solution lays in advanced design engineering technologies, such as metal additive manufacture (commonly known as 3D printing), which offer greater precision and design freedom. When used as part of an optimised and controlled process, intricate computer-aided plans can be translated into patient-specific implants and guides. These physically guide the surgeon, ensuring maximum precision and reduced risk.

The relative infancy of these techniques and a vast range of new design possibilities mean that there is still significant amounts of research required. Hanna is using her mechanical engineering knowledge to develop design controls that further increase safety whilst harnessing the creative potential of these new technologies. This is essential to meet rigorous quality management and regulatory standards.

The Surgical & Prosthetic Design team are based in PDR at Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales. The team works closely with NHS Wales and with leading precision engineering partners to deliver services to the UK NHS and beyond. Through rigorous research and development, the team are committed to improving patient outcomes and healthcare efficiency.