Rebuilding the faces of soldiers, veterans

Master Sgt. Todd Nelson

In photo, Master Sgt. Todd Nelson being fitted with facial prosthetics at Wilford Hall, Wednesday, June 23, 2010 in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay).

Using specially designed computer equipment, technicians at the prosthestics lab at Lackland Air Force Base can turn an MRI into three-dimensional molds to create custom-fit pieces to replace missing facial bones, facial features, and even pieces of skull for returning soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan War.

Before the war, the lab’s patients consisted primarily of cancer and civilian trauma survivors — only an occassional Vietnam-era war veteran looking for a new prosthesis. Since the war, the military has begun sparing no expense in the cost of outfitting soldiers with these amazingly real looking facial prosthetics from the lab. The lab is one of two major facial prosthetic programs in the Defense Department, and it has seen an unprecedented new stream of wounded soldiers.

The prosthetic replicas are so realistic, so customized, its hard to identify what is flesh and blood and what is prosthetic. Though the technology is available in the civilian world, the Lackland lab has the resources and expertise necessary to giving the soldiers the best possible care with little concern about the financial burdens that civilian trauma patients might face.

Read more on the lab, its work, and the life-changing effects of the prosthesis for one Master Sgt. injured by a flash from a car bomb here in this Yahoo!News article from the Associated Press.

Roberts, Michelle. “New Program Rebuilding Faces of Soldiers, Veterans.”
Yahoo! News. Associated Press, 27 July 2010. Web. 28 July 2010.

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