The patient had to have her nose amputated due to invasive skin cancer, which left her struggling with her new reality and looking for solutions.
While transplantation from a donor was not an option, as immunosuppressants can lead to cancer recurrence, the patient found new hope after talking to the head of the UKC Ljubljana reconstructive and aesthetic surgery department Uroš Ahčan.
"Nose reconstruction after a full amputation is one of the toughest reconstructive procedures," said Ahčan, who performed the surgery together with Vojko Didanovič of the hospital's department for maxillofacial and oral surgery.
The nose was grown from bone and soft tissue on the patient's forearm, where it was left for a month to heal and assume the correct form based on a 3D model.
The fully vascularised and innervated nose, whose outer layer was constructed from the patient's forehead tissue, was then transferred to the face, securing and effective and long-term solution.
"This method is innovative and complex in that we drew on 2,500 years of nasal reconstruction knowledge," said Didanovič.
The approach however is entirely new. While noses are printed in China with the help of bio-printing from ear cartilage tissue, vascularisation still presents an issue.
"The success of a country is not only measured in GDP, but also through the achievements of its people," Ahčan commented today.
He added the feat showed Slovenia's biggest public hospital was capable of state of the art medicine and of moving boundaries on the global scale.