News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Metro RTA

Hospice of the Western Reserve

Meaden & Moore


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Health and Medicine




Exploradio - The art of the skull menders
A small start-up in Cleveland uses cutting edge technology and an artist's eye to create custom implants for brain surgery patients
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
"Love of Country" a SKULLpture by Grace Abreo. Employees at Osteosymbionics make custom skull implants, and skull art.
Courtesy of Osteosymbionics
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

This spring, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords underwent surgery in which doctors patched her bullet-damaged skull with a custom-made piece of plastic.  In this week’s Exploradio we visit a Cleveland start-up that creates skull implants like the one doctors used for Giffords.  It’s equal parts high-tech science and hands-on artistry.

Exploradio - The art of the skull menders

Other options:
MP3 Download (4:15)


(Click image for larger view.)

Meeting the need

Grinders buzz in the small workshop of OsteoSymbionics, where workers polish custom-made plastic skull implants.   Cynthia Brogan founded the company five years ago to meet the growing trend where, following an injury, patients have large sections of bone removed to reduce pressure inside their skull - 

“These decompressive craniectomies have become more common.  And they’ll take very large bone flaps from both sides of the head.”

Lab director Lindsay Parker brings up a 3-D image of a skull with all but a narrow ridge across the top removed.

“This is the bilateral case we had just this month.  We’re looking at two huge pieces of bone removed from both sides.” 

Parker says, after surgery, doctors sometimes store skull fragments in the patient’s abdomen or in the freezer, but…

“If time elapses and the bone is not able to be saved of for whatever reason they can’t reuse the bone flap that’s when they have to go to a custom prosthesis.”

OsteoSymbionics crafts biocompatible plastic to patch damaged skulls.  The process begins with a CAT scan translated into a life-size plastic model of the damaged skull.

Then Brogan says -  it can move one of two ways –

“And that is analogue, old-school design, or state-of-the-art digital design.  And since we’re standing right here I will first show you state-of-the art digital design.”


The High-tech route

Jessica San manipulates a robotic stylus that allows her to feel her way around a 3-D image of the skull on her computer –

“This is like a sculpt tool, and you and actually go inside the bone and feel it.” 

San studied anatomy, she’s been in the operating room and watched surgery, but her degree is biomedical arts from the Cleveland Institute of Art.

“What you do is train in both the medical side and the art side.”

Biomedical Engineer Michael Nilsson helped design the software San uses .  He says it takes an artist to make the most of the high-tech equipment –

“A human skull is not round, it is not oval shaped  -  it is oval here, dips here, holes there, comes back out again.  And that’s where someone like Jessica is very valuable to refine and detail the actual implant.”


The hands-on approach

For cases that are too complex for the computer, sculptor David Hutson takes the second route for making skull implants - the hands-on approach.   Hutson adds layers of putty onto the model skull, filling the hole with a patch that mimics the bumps and dips of the original...

“Sometimes these skulls are not symmetrical to begin with so you have to find a middle ground where you’re making the one side flow into the other side with a balance.”

Lab Supervisor Lindsay Parker is also an art school grad specializing in medical illustration.  She says making custom skull implants stimulates both sides of her brain–

“I’m a huge geek and I’m an artist -  so it plays to both sides of my personality.”

“That’s what makes us unique is that we do have people who have that three-dimensional thinking, that artistry to be able to craft these products to help people.”


The skull as art

The artistry is not limited to surgical implants.  At  OsteoSymbionics, the skull itself becomes an art object.   Each employee decorated one for a series of ‘skullptures’.

Grace Abreo calls hers Love of Country .“I had 3 nephews that were sent to Afghanistan so the skull represents our United States, the outside is our soldiers protecting our U.S. and the inside is a tribute to the lost soldiers that we have lost.”

Photos of the SKULLptures were presented as posters at this year’s meeting of the Association of Neurosurgeons.

OsteoSymbionics is part of the MAGNET small business incubator in Cleveland.

I’m Jeff St. Clair with this week’s Exploradio.


Related Links & Resources
Osteosymbionics SKULLpture webpage


Related WKSU Stories

Exploradio - Graftech out of the ashes
Monday, October 24, 2011

Exploradio - The whirring heart
Monday, October 3, 2011

Exploradio: The natural origins of music
Monday, August 22, 2011

Listener Comments:

I absolutely loved this piece on the art of the craniectomy. It is so important for these patients to have an avenue for replacement when their own bone is not available due to complications or infections. I have used these products as a neurosurgical operating room nurse and it was wonderful to hear the story behind such a necessary invention. Without these bone flap replacement products many patients have to live in padded helmets to protect their heads. I did not realize that there was a local company producing these flaps or that there were CIA graduates involved. This story made for a lovely completion to my care of these patients. Thank you so much. Julie


Posted by: Julie Cahn, MSN, CNOR (Cleveland) on October 31, 2011 8:10AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Ohio to appeal ruling keeping Akron's red light cameras in place
I don't understand what all the fuss is about. If you don't like tickets drive the speed limit and stop at red lights. It's really all up to you.

Letters from a lost friend: A Beachwood survivor's Holocaust remembrance
What a great story -- and how important it was for both Marlene and her mother to tell it! Thank you.

Akron city council to vote on resolution for hiring ex-offenders
Great as a taxpayer I paid for the police to catch them, the free lawyer, the jail to house them , the food their kids eat the medical for them and all its goin...

5 of 8 rule headed for a vote
this is just another way for kasich to pass the buck and claim that it gives the local districts control. Few schools have enough money because of his cuts. T...

Bill would allow Ohio religious leaders to refuse to do gay marriages
This is just a lot of political posturing. The free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment already protects clergy from being forced by civil authorities to perfo...

Ohio lawmakers want to eliminate background checks, training to carry guns
On the face of this report I don't find the name of the bill or who sponsered it. I will have to google a general bill with this as its content to address it. N...

Ohio lawmaker calls for an investigation into a Dayton women's prison
I was an inmate at DCI and I am so happy that it's being investigated. The staff behavior there is awful unless he/she is your lover. There are more drugs insid...

Ohio's disabled face long waiting list for services
Can we use the Tribble on Disability Care? if so can you send the link to http://voice4thevoiceless.us thank you, Mark J Cleland Sr voice4thevoiceless.us

Treasures rescued from Cleveland's closed Catholic churches
This was found to be a real gift today Good Friday Bless you for your work

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University