Life-saving treatments that cure head and neck cancers can come at a price. Retired teaching assistant Sheelagh Holman-Methvan was left unable to open her mouth, chew or swallow solid food after intense radiotherapy to rid her of mouth cancer also destroyed tissue and bone.
The mother of two is about to undergo a pioneering operation to reconstruct her face, an incredibly complex procedure that can include taking the face and neck apart and carrying out major tissue transplants. ‘I feel quite excited and I wish I could be awake because the whole procedure is so totally mind-boggling,’ she says.
She is a patient of award-winning consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon Mr Kavin Andi, who is using techniques borrowed from the film industry to better prepare for this delicate surgery.
Using photographs and data from MRI and CT scans, Mr Andi has developed a three-dimensional planning tool which enables him to view a patient’s face from any number of angles and conduct ‘virtual’ surgery in advance of operations.
The computerised model, similar to that used by 3D animators, enables Mr Andi to better understand the locations of blood vessels and arteries and to precisely plan incisions prior to the operation.
Dr Elizabeth Healey travels to St George’s Hospital in south London too see how this revolutionary new tool can reduce theatre times and aid recovery.
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