26 November 2019

Groundbreaking 3D software which will help to virtually plan surgery and reconstruction for cancer and trauma patients has been introduced.

                        Mr Sunil Bhatia

It has been made possible thanks to a generous donation totalling nearly £50,000 from a former patient and the League of Friends of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH).

The donation has enabled a new 3D Printing and Surgical Planning service to be introduced in the Maxillofacial and Orthodontic Laboratory, based in the RSH – meaning quicker and more advanced treatment for patients.

The service has already been used to plan surgery for a patient with cancer of the upper jaw, a patient with a large cyst close to the eye and a patient who has suffered serious facial injuries in a cycling accident.

Christine Richardson and Mandy Frost visit the new service at RSH with Richard Lawn, LoF Chairman

The League of Friends of RSH received a legacy of £37,570 from Doris Cooper, in appreciation of the wonderful care she received from Consultant Mr Sunil Bhatia, the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery teams and Head and Neck Cancer services at RSH and the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford, run by SaTH. The LoF also donated a further £10,000 towards the service.

Mr Bhatia said: “When I received a copy of the solicitor’s letter from the League of Friends saying that Mrs Cooper had mentioned me and gifted a legacy of almost £40,000 to be used to improve the life of other cancer patients, I couldn’t believe it.

“After some consideration, and with help from the League of Friends, this piece of equipment will help us to plan virtual surgery and take us into the 21st century. While we have been trying to deliver the latest and best treatment it has been difficult as we had to send the scans out and the models were made elsewhere.

   Christine Richardson with Sam Bunn

“With this being in-house we are now able to perform virtual surgery to remove cancer from a very difficult area of the body, and we are also now able to very accurately predict the defect and also fabricate a framework from patient bone or a titanium.”

Samantha Bunn, Manager of The Maxillofacial and Orthodontic Laboratory at SaTH, said: “The Maxillofacial prosthetists have started to use groundbreaking software and equipment to plan surgery and reconstruction for cancer and trauma patients.

“Virtual 3D models are created via data from a CT scan; surgery is planned recreating surgical cuts and bone grafts, and titanium plates are designed and implants positioned to assist the Maxillofacial surgeons in theatre.

“The models are then printed out in resin to produce a true replica of the patient and for use as a diagnostic aid. Previously, the Maxillofacial team sourced an external company to provide this service which impacted on surgery time.”

               Doris and Bob Cooper

In 2014, Mrs Cooper (known as Dos to her many friends) underwent major neck surgery carried out by Mr Bhatia, from which she made a speedy and full recovery, enabling her to continue to care for her adored husband, Bob, who had vascular dementia.

She never forgot what she described as her wonderful treatment at both hospitals – and in her will made bequests for the League of Friends of RSH and the League of Friends of PRH, which also received the same donation, with the direction that it would be to the benefit of Mr Bhatia, the oral and maxillofacial surgery teams and the head and neck cancer services.

Her closest friends Christine Richardson and Mandy Frost said: “Dos was a strong, resilient person with a naturally sunny disposition and a zest for life. She was interested in everybody she met, always seeing the best in them and always looked on the bright side.

“When asked by nurses how she felt when she came round from her neck cancer operation, she replied ‘Thank you. I enjoyed that’.  She enjoyed her hospital stays and visits, because she genuinely liked and appreciated all the hospital staff. Unusual for one of her age, she embraced technology and was never without her iPad.  She would be absolutely delighted to know that some of her money has been used to buy a 3D printer to assist Mr Bhatia in his work of treating other patients.

“Having made a complete recovery from neck cancer in 2014, Doris was given a terminal diagnosis of liver cancer in 2018. She accepted this with great dignity, helped by her strong Christian faith. She described her life as long and very happy and left most of her money to various charities that were close to her heart.”