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Adrian Kearns - 3D surgical planning

Healthcare Science Week gives us the chance to share stories about how science and technology is vital in modern patient care and changes lives for the better. It’s also an opportunity for existing healthcare science staff to inspire the next generation.

We spoke to senior maxillofacial prosthetist Adrian Kearns from the 3D surgical planning team here at CUH, to learn more about the team. And discover how new technology is shaping its future.

3D surgical planning

3D surgical planning



I'm Adrian Kearns, lead Maxillofacial Prosthetist here at the maxillofacial and orthodontic department at Addenbrooke's hospital. The work that we do, we provide prosthetic rehabilitation for patients who have undergone surgery and have lost parts of their body due to cancer, trauma or malformation.

As maxillofacial prosthetist / reconstructive scientists, we specialise in the manufacture of bespoke prosthetic reconstruction. This varies from prosthetic ears, noses, digits, nipples, artificial eyes, through to titanium skull plates and therapeutic splints. We are also involved in surgical planning for jaw surgery (orthognathic) as well as other craniofacial surgical and reconstruction planning.

Adrian Kearns - senior maxillofacial prosthetist

The work of a maxillofacial prosthetist / reconstructive scientist is often described as the bridge between art and science.

The prostheses are hand carved, with the silicone mixed by hand and colour added to match the patient’s skin tone.

Skin blemishes are also added to introduce depth of colour and aid camouflage.

The team also play a vital role in helping surgeons prepare for surgery.

"Part of what we're trying to achieve with surgical planning is to obtain practise models via 3D printing. A surgeon can practise surgery before they have the patient in front of them."

"Studies have found by practising this way surgery time can be reduced by 25%. With a surgeon's heart rate during surgery being reduced by 30%."

A prothetic ear made from silicon on a work bench

With support from Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (ACT), the team have obtained two 3D biocompatible printers, scanners and digital surgical planning software.

This allows us to have a closer working relationship with our surgical colleagues. We can plan different surgical reconstruction, implant placement planning and biocompatible 3D printing cutting guides. These can be used in theatre, allowing for incredibly accurate outcomes.

Adrian Kearns - senior maxillofacial prosthetist

The profession is always evolving and developing.

This allows the team to continue to offer the best level of service to our patients based upon their individual needs.

"No two patients are the same so we have a service that places patients at the core of our treatments. Our profession encourages innovative thinking, research, development while having artistic skills."

"We work directly with patients for protracted periods of time. Empathy and interpersonal skills are a crucial aspect of our overall care."

A prothetic eye made from silicon on a work bench

Adrian explains that the future is progressively becoming more digital in its processes.

With 3D printing technology becoming involved in the printing of silicones, designing and manufacture of implantable frameworks for surgical skin transplantation.

"A maxillofacial prosthetist's skills base will continue to change with the evolution of surgical and scientific developments."

"Given this, the current set of skills will evolve into newer ways of working. With the same level of accuracy, care and attention to detail. Ensuring quality is maintained at the point of care."

Non-urgent advice: CUH Careers

If you're interested in a healthcare sciences career at our hospital visit our careers site.

Adrian explains the current pathway for 3D surgical planning.

"The Scientific Training Programme (STP) is a BSc in Dental Technology at a 2:1 level (courses at Cardiff and Bolton). Applications however have been accepted with a BSc in science at a 2:1 with a BTech level 4 (Dental Technology) to gain the General Dental Council, which is required."