Interview: João Correia Leite

(Image above: “This case was a patient that endured an accident that resulted in multiple fractures to the face. The original CT had all the bone fragments out of normal alignment. what we did was to separate the different fractures (different colors) and re-align them to their natural position. Afterwards, we proposed the osteosynthesis plates that can be seen in the picture and 3D printed a model with the fractures align that was used in the operating theatre as a template for the surgeon to guide the procedure and achieve the best aesthetic outcome.” )

“This product/service is specifically used for a pathology called craniosynostosis, where one or more cranium suture closes before time, this leads to deformities of the skull in newborns. What we do with this cases is to virtually plan the osteotomies and virtually place the bone fragments in an almost perfect position, that eliminates potential problems of a closed suture and improves the aesthetics of the patient. Of course this wouldn’t mean anything if we only did it virtually, so in order for the surgeon to replicate what we do in the computer, we 3D print a set of custom-made cutting guides that allows them to cut the bone exactly where we predicted and a set of custom-made positioning guides, that in turn help the surgeon shapes the bone fragments and place them in the positions predicted earlier. We have been receiving amazing feedback on this service, and we are of course very proud of what we managed to achieve.”
João Correia Leite from BRECA Health Care Design and Development Engineer, with a background in Biomechanics, currently Director of the Medical Engineer department at BRECA Health Care. Specialized in patient-specific solutions, virtual surgery planning, and additive manufacturing applied to the medical sector.
Q: How did you first encounter 3D printing? What was the story?
A: The first time I saw a 3D printer, I hadn’t quite realized what it was. It was in the first Jurassic Park movie, they called it back then a rapid prototyper. It came to me years later when I started studying Biomechanics in 2006, 13 years after that movie came out.
Q: What inspired you to use or work with 3D printing?
A: I always wanted to work in the medical field. While studying I was introduced to custom-made solutions, 3D printing was the logical next step in that equation.
Q: What is the biggest motivation for your work?
A: You know you are helping people, no need to say anything more than that.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in your work?
A: Breaking the stigma associated with patient-specific solutions, regarding price and old techniques, it is hard to get rid of old habits.

“In this case, we also worked with patient-specific instrumentation. First, we started with the segmentation of the bone tumor (red), then we designed a set of custom-made cutting guide for the dissection of said tumor. For the reconstruction of the defect left behind we design another set of guides that were used in a donor, assuring that the surgeons could take a fragment that perfectly matched the patient.”

Q: How do you plan to conquer this challenge?
A: The benefits will eventually speak for themselves.
Q: What is your vision on the potential impact of your current work to the future of medicine?
A: I think we will see a standardization of the custom-made approach in medicine.
Q: What is the biggest change/improvement since last year this time?
A: The word is starting to spread, more and more medical professionals are open to introducing patient-specific solutions.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: At BRECA we are passionate about innovation. Today we are making patient-specific devices, but we are already researching on how to improve them as well. We are already thinking about the next steps, devices enhanced with bio-degradable materials, bio-printing, and tissue engineering.

“This is probably the more common case of those that were exposed during the interview. This is a patient-specific jaw plate. We wanted to show that we could achieve a better product via 3D printing, a product that matched the patient and did not require any manipulation from the surgeon. We achieve this great titanium plate, the image doesn’t really make justice to the device, it almost looked like a piece of jewelry.”
Q: What is the biggest risk you took in your career?
A: Personally, four years ago I moved to a new country to start work at BRECA, a start-up was in the very early stage. Today, we are well recognized in the market for personalized medicine and tissue engineering. One could say, it paid off.
Q: What do you enjoy in your spare time?
A: A lot of things, if I had to choose one, probably racing.