Thousands of sinus surgery patients could breathe easier with 3D printed nose implants.
An implant that could comfortably fit into any nose, ease breathing of patients with inflamed sinuses and deliver drugs locally, was outlined at a research showcase at AUT last week.
Doctoral student Lari Dkahr presented the proposal as part of her her PhD research.
“The problem we are trying to solve is, after sinus surgery you have limited options of implants. So we are trying to help patients be more comfortable healing after undergoing surgery,” Ms Dkhar said.
This multidisciplinary project is led by pharmacist Dr Ali Seyfoddin, who leads the drug delivery research group within the School of Science.
“Drug delivery scientists are always looking for new and improved ways to deliver medicines to their site of action, and 3D printing gives us the flexibility to design complicated devices that are otherwise difficult to produce by conventional means,” Dr Seyfoddin said.
Sinus surgery is the only real option for patients suffering from chronic sinus infections, but surgery can result in scarring and bleeding in the nose.
According to Dr Jim Bartley, an ear, nose and throat specialist based in Auckland who is also supervising the project, the surgery is extremely common, and while complications are rare, he would always prefer to avoid it.
“Surgeons throughout the country are doing it 100, maybe 200 times a day - I’ll probably be doing three surgeries this week,” Dr Bartley said.
Dr David White, a bioengineer also supervising the research, said Ms Dkhar’s research, if fruitful, would enable surgeons to customise the implants they use to heal the nose after surgery.
The drug delivery mechanism in the implant could help avoid repeated surgery for ailments like nasal polyps – small growths in the nose that make it hard to breathe and require surgical removal, he added.
Dr Bartley said change was sorely missed in a field that has had few major innovations in recent years.
“When I remove polyps from patients I’ll see them come back months later with new growths. All we can do is open their noses up again and fire steroids into it, requiring anaesthetic, antibiotics and days off work,” Dr Bartley said. He was cautiously optimistic of Ms Dkhar's research.
“We have to go down this path, but we don’t know if it’s the way of the future. A lot of research have come and gone without changing anything, but 3D printing is the way of the future,” he said.
Ms Dkhar will be working on her PhD until 2019.