Speedier, easier operation in the works for lower jaw reconstruction with new device

A prototype of the new modular endoprosthesis for jaw reconstruction. ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

SINGAPORE - People who require reconstruction of their lower jaw may soon be able to spend fewer hours in surgery and recuperate more quickly with the help of a new device.

The titanium modular endoprosthesis, developed by a team of researchers from the National Dental Centre Singapore, can be used to replace the affected part of the lower jaw, as opposed to the current method of using a bone from a patient's lower leg.

After the section of the jaw is removed, the procedure involves affixing the device into holes drilled into the bone stumps and the affixing of screws to secure it to the jaw.

Currently, surgeons remove a bone in the patient's lower leg along with the blood vessels and shape it to fit the jaw of the patient.

But this requires an operation of up to 12 hours, possible complications such as infection, three weeks of hospitalisation, a recovery period of two weeks and extensive scarring on the leg.

The new way of reconstruction will lead to a shorter operation of four to eight hours, fewer post-operative complications, and a faster recovery of three days instead of two weeks.

"The old method will require the patient to do a surgery on the leg and the jaw. However, this new device will only require one surgery on the jaw," said principal investigator and senior consultant at the National Dental Centre Singapore, Dr Goh Bee Tin.

Patients usually require reconstruction of the jaw after suffering trauma, inflammatory diseases or oral cancer.

"In fact, the main reason for a jaw reconstruction is due to oral cancer. Oral cancer is among the top three most common cancer in South-Central Asia," said Dr Goh.

The costs of the new method of jaw reconstruction have yet to be determined, but patients will see savings of a few thousands dollars from the shorter hospitalisation stay. It costs about $48,000, without subsidies, for the current method of jaw reconstruction, excluding physiotherapy and other expenses.

The National Dental Centre Singapore team has filed a patent application and clinical trials are expected to begin by 2020. They are also expecting to commercialise the product by 2025.

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