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J Korean Neurosurg Soc. 2012 Dec;52(6):541-6. doi: 10.3340/jkns.2012.52.6.541. Epub 2012 Dec 31.

Customized cranioplasty implants using three-dimensional printers and polymethyl-methacrylate casting.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.



The prefabrication of customized cranioplastic implants has been introduced to overcome the difficulties of intra-operative implant molding. The authors present a new technique, which consists of the prefabrication of implant molds using three-dimensional (3D) printers and polymethyl-methacrylate (PMMA) casting.


A total of 16 patients with large skull defects (>100 cm(2)) underwent cranioplasty between November 2009 and April 2011. For unilateral cranial defects, 3D images of the skull were obtained from preoperative axial 1-mm spiral computed tomography (CT) scans. The image of the implant was generated by a digital subtraction mirror-imaging process using the normal side of the cranium as a model. For bilateral cranial defects, precraniectomy routine spiral CT scan data were merged with postcraniectomy 3D CT images following a smoothing process. Prefabrication of the mold was performed by the 3D printer. Intraoperatively, the PMMA implant was created with the prefabricated mold, and fit into the cranial defect.


The median operation time was 184.36±26.07 minutes. Postoperative CT scans showed excellent restoration of the symmetrical contours and curvature of the cranium in all cases. The median follow-up period was 23 months (range, 14-28 months). Postoperative infection was developed in one case (6.2%) who had an open wound defect previously.


Customized cranioplasty PMMA implants using 3D printer may be a useful technique for the reconstruction of various cranial defects.


Computer-aided design; Decompressive craniectomy; Polymethyl-methacrylate; Reconstructive surgical procedure

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