A 10-year-old girl has become the first person to undergo a patient-matched 3D-printed ear reconstruction in groundbreaking Queensland-first surgery.

Grace Smart was born with microtia, which affected the development of her right ear, and had reconstructive surgery using a custom 3D-printed implant, receiving a bone-anchored hearing aid during the same procedure.

Born a non-identical twin at 29 weeks with an absent external right ear, aural atresia, hemifacial microsomia, and weakness of the facial muscles, Grace was treated by multiple specialist services before making the decision to undergo the life-changing surgery in December.

The surgery, which took around 12 hours, performed by chief of surgery Dr Stuart Bade at Queensland Children's Hospital, is the first to be done in Queensland and one of the few in the country.

Grace Smart’s ear reconstruction is a Queensland-first procedure. Picture: John Gass
Grace Smart’s ear reconstruction is a Queensland-first procedure. Picture: John Gass


Dr Bade said the state is at the forefront of these types of medical developments.

"It's the first time we've done this type of procedure in Queensland - similar operations have only been done a couple times in Australia and overseas," he said.

"But Grace is also unique in that as well as reconstructing the external ear, we extended the design of the implant to accommodate for her facial asymmetry...we could use the 3D imaging, photography and CT scans in order to customise the implant for her unique facial features.

"It was a really good Christmas present for her."

Grace's mother Debbie said her daughter is excited to start Year 6 today at Camira State School, with the day marking the beginning of the first year with a new ear.

"She came out of the operation as bright and as bubbly as anything," she said.

"It was wow. She just looked so different.

"It's just amazing what he (Dr Bade) can do - he is just a fantastic doctor and I cannot think highly enough of him."

Grace Smart with mother Debbie Smart. Picture: John Gass
Grace Smart with mother Debbie Smart. Picture: John Gass


Originally published as Grace gets 3D-printed ear in Queensland first


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