A throat cancer sufferer has a new jaw, created with the help of innovative 3D printing techniques - the first Kiwi to benefit from the cutting-edge technology.

Jack Goodall, 78, underwent reconstruction surgery in March on an eroded jawbone from an infection after radiotherapy in 2009.

The Auckland man lived for years with chronic dental pain, taking antibiotics most weeks to stave off infections.

Finally, at the end of last year, specialist surgeons Zac Moaveni and Andrew Cho offered to operate on Goodall, removing a "moth-eaten" piece of his jaw and replacing it with part of his femur.


Cho and Moaveni worked with Swiss engineers to design and 3D print plastic polymer equipment that was sent to New Zealand for the surgery.

"I was living on antibiotics and had pain all the time. Now I can live my life," Goodall told the Herald on Sunday.

The retired engineer was "not one for gushing" but he was pleased with how his quality of life had improved.

"I don't have an infection any more and there's no pain."

Weeks of planning, measuring and designing via the internet was brought to fruition in "about an hour" of 3D printing. "We can show [the engineers] right there in the picture exactly where we want the cuts to be, the size, the angle," Moaveni said. "It's incredible. The design accuracy is amazing."

Traditionally, fitting a piece of bone to align was very difficult, sometimes impossible, Moaveni said.

"Getting it to fit properly is really just guesswork, you kind of do it on the table and hope for the best." 3D printing took out the guesswork.

"The fact that everything fit beautifully and anatomically correctly means the bone is in precisely the right position to heal well."

More than two hours was saved in surgery time, cutting Goodall's complicated procedure down to eight hours.

Cho and Moaveni measured the gap between the healthy parts of Goodall's jaw, then used 3D printing to make plastic "jigs" or templates showing them where and how much of his jaw and femur to remove.

Two of the jigs were screwed into Goodall's jaw, showing the surgeons exactly where to cut around the eroded piece of bone.

A third was used as a template to show Cho and Moaveni where to cut from Goodall's femur.

A plastic mould was also printed using measurements from Goodall's face, into which titanium steel was poured to bolt the pieces in place.

Moaveni and Cho were convinced 3D printing was "the way forward" for head and neck surgeries in particular.

"We can actually use these for cancer operations as well," Cho said.

"If someone has a cancer in the jaw we can use the same technology to remove the cancer and reconstruct it quickly with the same exact type of procedure."

Cho estimated there would be about 10 such surgeries needed nationally a year.

Goodall's surgery cost about $5000 to set up.