20-year-old receives 3D printed skull implant after removal of extremely rare tumor

Apr 24, 2017 | By Tess

Tiffany Cullern, a 20-year-old from Swindon, Wiltshire in the U.K., has had her skull rebuilt thanks to a 3D printed skull implant. The young woman had been suffering from an incredibly rare tumor, about the size of a golf ball, that was growing on her brain.

At the age of 12, Tiffany Cullern began losing her sense of smell, a phenomenon that was attributed by doctors to allergies. As she was told, it was her pet bunny’s fur that was causing her loss of smell. Even after giving her pet away and being prescribed many antihistamines and nasal sprays, however, her sense of smell did not return.

It was only then, in 2013, that her doctors thought that maybe something else could be wrong. After having the young teen undergo a CT scan, the doctors were shocked to find a mass the size of a fist located between Tiffany’s eyes.

Initially, the doctors believed that the mass was simply a cyst that could be drained, and it was only after a biopsy that they realized that the large mass growing on Tiffany’s brain was actually an extremely rare tumor that needed treatment quickly.

At this point, Tiffany was referred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where a team of doctors diagnosed her with juvenile psammomatoid ossifying fibroma, a very rare, benign type of tumor that can cause extreme damage to the brain and body just by the rate of its growth.

It was in her final year of college that Tiffany finally underwent the tumor removal surgery. According to a source, the operation took about six hours to complete, and consisted of drilling through her skull and pulling the tumor out through her nostrils by an incision through her eye.

Only days after the surgery was completed, it became apparent that something was not quite right, as Tiffany was still unresponsive. She was subsequently rushed back into surgery where doctors found that her brain had become so swollen that it causing pressure on her skull. To remedy the situation and relieve the pressure, the doctors were forced to remove a large piece of her skull.

This meant that TIffany was left without a piece of her skull for several months, though her condition did not stop her from trying to get back to her regular life. Impressively, the young woman returned to her part-time job, and even took college exams.

She said: “My skull was still missing its original piece and I was told that this would have to be made by a 3D printer. This was meant to be a two week wait but there were various delays with the company making the piece. After the third week from my operation I asked if I could go home and wait for the skull piece there. The hospital agreed and I was discharged with strict instructions of what I could and could not do. Initially it was very, very scary and embarrassing walking around with half my head missing.”

When Tiffany’s doctors were sure that her brain would not swell up again, a 3D printed skull implant, which was modeled after CT and MRI scans of her head, was implanted into the now 20-year-old’s head. The 3D printed skull piece was made from titanium, plastic, and calcium.

Recently engaged to her boyfriend, Tiffany is thankful to have her head back to normal and is happy to be moving forward with her life.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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