New Technology for disfigured vets

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2013 4:17 pm | Updated: 4:42 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

From burns, to bullets, to bomb blasts, thousands of U.S. troops have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with devastating injuries that leave them disfigured.

To give the wounded warriors a better quality of life and sense of normalcy, experts are using advanced technology and art.

With what's left of his left hand Army Vet Mario Lopez turns a canvas into art. While serving in Iraq in 2008, his vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device.

Mario is Doctor Sarra Cushen's canvas. She's custom painting his prosthetic ear. "It's very helpful to have Mario's input on this because he does have such an artist's eye."

Eyes, ears and more are made here at San Antonio Military Medical Center. The U.S. Surgeon General's Office reports more than 2,500 military members have suffered traumatic burns in Iraq and Afghanistan. A study of U.S. military casualties over a six month period, found 39 percent of all troops' injuries were to the head, face and neck.

Colonel Alan Sutton says when surgeons can't recreate features with bone and tissue. "Then it's our turn to recreate realistic prosthesis."

In 18 milli-seconds, this camera captures a 3D picture of the face. Doctors can use it to help build new body parts. Doctors can also make virtual replicas of patients' faces like this. "So, this is the future here."

But until it's perfected, Sutton tells us stone casting is quicker and more detailed. He says it's been used for almost a century.

Doctor cushen's masterpiece is now complete. Mario says his new prosthetic ear looks and feels real. "it's just that one more normalcy you know. One more thing that makes me more normal."

San Antonio Military Medical Center has teamed up with UCLA's "Operation Mend."

The program offers wounded warriors medical services including plastic and reconstructive surgery at no cost to the vets.

Operation mend pays for what their military medical insurance doesn't cover-- on average, that's about $500,000 per patient.

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