COULD 3D PRINTING BE THE FUTURE OF ARTIFICIAL EYES

Could 3D printing be the future of artificial eyes for retinoblastoma survivors?

At Birmingham Children’s Hospital, specialists are always looking into ways to improve prosthetic eyes for children and adults affected by retinoblastoma. Here, Mr Manoj Parulekar, a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, gives an update on the latest groundbreaking research…

Despite many advances in the treatment of retinoblastoma, some cases will present at an advanced stage and require surgery to remove the eye (enucleation).

It is essential to give the affected individual the best possible surgical result, and follow it up with optimum artificial eye (prosthesis) fitting.

Currently prostheses are made of PMMA (Poly methyl methacrylate). The cosmesis and colour match can be very good, but PMMA is a heavy material.

In some cases where the artificial eye needs to be larger to compensate for volume deficiency or to lift up a droopy eyelid, the large eye can, over a period of time, stretch the lower eyelid.

Another issue is colour matching. Although the colour matching in most eyes is very good, it can be a challenge in eyes with mixed colours, eg hazel.

A third issue is rotational stability. It is not uncommon for prosthesis to rotate within the socket due to unusual socket shapes.

As part of the socket service at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, we deal with difficult sockets, both post

BCH Manoj Parulekar
Mr Manoj Parulekar

enucleation as well as for children born without eyes (anophthalmia), and are working on ways to improve the results for these cases.

We are currently exploring 3D printing technology as a potential method. However, there are several hurdles including availability of suitable biomaterials that will pass the medical device specification, as well as achieving true to life colour match.

Another idea is to create a soft foldable (but sufficiently firm) artificial eye that can be folded and inserted into the socket.

 

Could you help to improve artificial eyes in the future?

Do you have experience of 3D printing or biomaterials, or do you know someone who does? If so, we need your help.

This is an open call to friends and families of the CHECT community who might be able to put us in touch with people who have the technical knowledge to contribute to this endeavour.

This knowledge could be invaluable and may help to shape the future of prosthetic eyes for retinoblastoma survivors.

Please email maureen.mccalla@bch.nhs.uk for further details or if you think you can help.

Find out more about living with an artificial eye here. You can also read more information about retinoblastoma (Rb) on our website.

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