Girl with rare disorder can smile again with help of 3D printer

A girl with a rare facial deformity is able to smile and laugh again, thanks in part to 3D printing.

Two-year-old Violet Pietrok was born with frontonasal dysplasia, a rare facial deformity that resulted in the widening of certain facial features, including the nose and space between eyes. Violet underwent a major surgery at Boston Children's Hospital in October with a plastic surgeon and neurosurgeon to help reshape her face, according to ABC News.

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Because of the unique way that Violet's skull was formed by the condition, doctors had to be careful not to interfere with her brain or other nerves during surgery. So they used a 3D printer to create models of Violet's skull over time.

"The value of the model like this is huge," Dr. John Meara, plastic surgeon-in-chief at Boston Children's Hospital, said in a video. "This gives me the ability to see on this model better than I will in the operating room."

During the lengthy surgery lasting over six hours, doctors ran into a few complications along the way. But with the help of the 3D models, they were able to find a solution.

"This allows us to understand what needed to be modified or addressed on the model before making an incision or bone cuts in the (operating room)," Meara said. "For Violet, I actually modified my osteotomies (bone cuts) based on something that I was able to see happening in the model."

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Now, months after the surgery, Alicia Taylor, Violet's mother, says that the child is happy and doing well after the procedure.

"She's fantastic even with the surgery," Taylor told ABC News. "She still was just sweet and compliant and she tried to smile."

Taylor hopes that her family's story will make people aware of the condition and not be shocked by it. "If you see someone staring at you and (they) turn and walk off, it makes you feel different and it will make her feel shunned," Taylor told ABC News. "It would be far better if they introduce themselves and say, 'Hi, I'm so-and-so, I wondered if you can explain to (my kids) what happened.'"
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