Girl with rare disorder can smile again with help of 3D printer

Little Miss Violet Pietrok (Photo: Alicia Taylor/Facebook)

A toddler with a rare facial deformity is able to smile and giggle again, thanks in part to the technology of 3D printing.

Two-year-old Violet Pietrok was born with frontonasal dysplasia, a rare facial deformity that resulted in the widening of certain facial features, including the nose and space between eyes.

Just 100 cases of frontonasal dysplasia have been documented, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Violet underwent a major surgery in October at Boston Children’s Hospital with a plastic surgeon and neurosurgeon to help reshape her face, according to ABC News. Because of the unique way the condition has formed Violet’s skull, doctors had to be extremely careful not to interfere with her brain or other nerves during surgery. So, they used a 3D printer to create models of Violet’s skull over time.

“The value of the model like this is huge,” Dr. John Meara, plastic surgeon-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a video. “This gives me the ability to see on this model better than I will in the operating room.”

Violet was born with a rare condition that resulted in a widening of certain features in her face. (Photo: ABC News/Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Childrens Hospital)
Violet was born with a rare condition that resulted in a widening of certain features in her face. (Photo: ABC News/Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Childrens Hospital)

The lengthy surgery lasted over six hours. During the procedure, doctors ran into a few complications along the way. However, with the help of the 3D models, they found a solution.

Dr. Meara said that the model was extremely helpful in practicing the surgery.

“This allows us to understand what needed to be modified or addressed on the model before making an incision or bone cuts in the (operating room),” Meara said. “For Violet, I actually modified my osteotomies (bone cuts) based on something that I was able to see happening in the model.”Now, months after the surgery, Alicia Taylor, Violet’s mother, says that the child is happy and doing well after the procedure.

“She’s fantastic. She’s taking it all in stride,” Violet’s mother, Alicia Taylor, told ABC News. “She’s so happy … all the time. If she’s not smiling, she’s generally asleep or throwing a fit.”

Taylor hopes her family’s story will make people aware of the condition and not shocked by it.

“If you see someone staring at you and (they) turn and walk off, it makes you feel different and it will make her feel shunned,” Taylor told ABC News. “It would be far better if they introduce themselves and say, ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so, I wondered if you can explain to (my kids) what happened.'”

Meara said he’s very excited with the surgery results and doesn’t expect any major issues for Violet in the future.

“I have high hopes for her,” Meara told ABC News. “She is so bright — in both personality and cognitive ability. I will want to see her and follow up on her progress every year. At some point in the future she may require some revisions procedures.”

ABC News contributed to this report.

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