A 3D-printed eye is a true biomimic and a more realistic prosthetic, with clearer definition and real depth to the pupil. Unlike traditional methods, it is made using digital scans of the eye instead of an invasive mold of the eye socket; a process often so difficult for children they require a general anesthetic.
Along with better aesthetics, the production process is also much faster. Traditional acrylic prosthetic eyes are hand-painted and take about six weeks to complete. With 3D printing, once a scan has been taken, the prosthesis can be printed within two and a half hours. It is then sent to an ocularist to finish, polish and fit. The whole process takes just two to three weeks.
In a world first Steve Verze, a patient at Moorfields, has replaced his traditional prosthetic eye with a 3D-printed version, which he will use as his sole prosthetic eye.
Steve said: “I’ve needed a prosthetic since I was 20, and I’ve always felt self-conscious about it. When I leave my home I often take a second glance in the mirror, and I’ve not liked what I’ve seen. This new eye looks fantastic and, being based on 3D digital printing technology, it’s only going to be better and better.”
This first 3D prosthetic fitting is a precursor to forthcoming joint UCL-Moorfields clinical trial, which will evaluate the effectiveness of 3D-printed eyes vs traditional hand-made eyes. The trial will recruit up to 40 patients and asses the two protheses for motility (movement), cosmesis (look), fit and function, comfort, mucous discharge and general benefits of use in daily life.
Each subject participant will wear each prothesis for four months; motility assessment will be made at the start and following three months’ wear.
The principal investigator, Professor Mandeep Sagoo (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields), said: “We are excited about the potential for this fully digital prosthetic eye. We hope our forthcoming clinical trial will provide us with robust evidence about the value of this new technology, showing what a difference it makes for patients. It clearly has the potential to reduce waiting lists.”
People wear a prosthetic eye if the eye has not developed normally since birth, if there has been an accident leaving the eye scarred, or if the eye must be removed for severe pain or a cancer in the eye.
Around 0.1 percent of the population need a prosthesis (60–70,000 people in England). Prosthetic eyes are currently replaced around every five years, and every eye socket is unique.
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