Gaza: Healing facial scars in 3D

MSF teams in Gaza are using digital imaging and 3D printing to fabricate custom prosthetic masks for patients with facial burns.

A doctor holds a clear 3D-printed mask up to the face of a young girl with facial scars in Gaza, Palestine.

Palestine 2020 © Lyad Alasttal

Many children in Gaza, Palestine, have already experienced war in their young lives, often more than once. For those left with facial burns as a result of the violence, the scars—both physical and emotional—can last a lifetime.  

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams provide specialized treatment for children suffering from facial burns at our hospital in Gaza. Using a 3D printer, we create a mould of the patient’s face, which is then used to produce a clear protective mask. These masks protect the skin and help scars heal without covering up the child’s face like bandages or dressings would.

Off-the-shelf prosthetics can be prohibitively expensive and are often one-size-fits-all. But no two patients are alike—from lifestyle to skin tone to aspirations, each has different needs when it comes to the prosthetic design that will benefit them most. Using digital imaging techniques and a combination of plastics, 3D printers fabricate modular prosthetics tailored to a patient’s anatomy and needs. 

MSF teams in Gaza pour white liquid to make a mould of a prosthetic face for people with facial scars.
An MSF team member in Gaza works on a prosthetic face mould for people with facial scars.

MSF physiotherapist Mohammed Ali Abed El Qakder Al Qatrawi makes a compressive face mask for a burn victim at MSF’s burn and trauma clinic in Gaza City. Palestine 2021 © Tetiana Gaviuk/MSF

Originally established in 2006 to treat victims of the Iraq war, MSF’s reconstructive surgery program now provides care to war-wounded patients from across the region

In pictures: Making 3D-printed masks

MSF medical teams create 3D printed face masks in a laboratory in Gaza.
Reem's work included making 3D-printed masks for children with facial burns at MSF's burns and trauma clinic in Gaza City. Palestine 2021 © Tetiana Gaviuk/MSF
MSF medical teams make a 3d-printed prosthetic face mask for a young man in Gaza.
In Gaza, a physical therapist uses a red marker to identify areas to customize a burn patient's compression mask. Palestine 2020 © Lyad Alasttal
MSF medical teams in Gaza fit a clear prosthetic face mask for a young woman with facial scars.
An MSF patient tries on a 3D-printed compression mask. Palestine 2020 © Lyad Alasttal