Australian researchers have developed 3D image analysis technology that will “revolutionise’’ paediatric surgery.

The technology, developed by a team from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), predicts the normal face shape of a child at different ages.

The team is hopeful that improving the ability to predict normal growth will help surgeon’s design operations by giving them a fast and accurate predictor of how a child’s features will change.

Harold Matthews, a MCRI researcher, is pioneering the development using photos of 1,200 Victorian children to develop a “normal reference population” that will be used to determine if an individual is growing normally.

A model is also being developed that will predict normal craniofacial growth.

In the case of surgeries where fat grafts are used to rebuild a face, Matthews said it would be beneficial to have a reference point on how the face would have grown without intervention.

“Without objective measures of normal growth and deviations from normality, it is impossible to answer these, and many other related questions, that are essential for optimising surgical practice and outcomes in children,’’ Matthews on Friday said.

He said that current methods of charting facial growth, by using photos and taxing x-rays, were time consuming and inaccurate.

Matthews believes that in the long-term the technology could be used to “grow a face” by taking a picture of a toddler and applying the appropriate rate of change over years to produce a lookalike, which can help assist with missing persons cases and pinpoint the age of people lacking birth certificates.


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