RAFAEL engineers are usually kept busy with the daily production and development of weapons but when doctors from the Kaplan Medical Center sought them out to help a patient suffering from a severe jaw infection, they did not think twice.
The best experts convened, took technology that is usually used to produce missiles and built the patient an artificial titanium jaw which was then successfully transplanted in the patient's mouth.
Vladislav Zaitsev, a Ramle resident made aliyah to Israel in 1997 from the former Soviet Union where served as a missile engineer.
His jaw recently became useless due to a severe infection which prevented him from eating speaking and drinking. "We were very concerned and we started going from doctor to doctor," said his daughter Victoria.
"Sadly none of them had a solution to (his) situation," she added.
Dr. Roy Connolly, a mouth and jaw specialist at the Kaplan Medical Center said Zaitsev's jaw bone was slowly disappearing. "This is an extreme case of a severe infection which has hurt the lower jaw in the most serious manner," Dr. Connolly explained.
"The lower jaw bone was so thin that you could no longer fix it in the usual manner. In this situation there was no choice but to put in an artificial jaw," he added.
In similar cases in the past doctors would construct a new jaw from a bone cut off the leg, a complicated process that involves a lengthy recovery. In any case, Zaitsev's bone was not strong enough to be used as a basis for the new jaw.
Then Dr. Connolly got a new idea – approaching RAFAEL with a request to examine whether they could assist on this special case.
RAFAEL-MANOR division scientists decided to take the project seriously and created an exact model of the missing jaw bone using technology mostly used to produce the stunner missiles – advanced missiles meant to intercept Hezbollah Grad missiles.
The innovative technology is based on creating thin layers of powder, one on top of the other, built on a 3-D model of the wanted jaw.
"A powerful laser melts the powder and when the melted substance cools down it solidifies and melds with the layers underneath," RAFAEL explained. "The traits of the resulting products are more accurate."
Two days before the surgery the computerized scanned files of the injured jaw were converted to a 3-D format and the artificial jaw was constructed using lasers.
During the operation - at which two RAFAEL engineers were present - Dr. Connolly transplanted the jaw, and within four hours the procedure was completed successfully.
"As someone who produced missile ships he can understand the quality of the materials from which his new jaw has been created," said Dr. Connolly.