A statistical shape model for estimating missing soft tissues of the face in a black South African population

Helene Francia Swanepoel*, Harold S. Matthews, Peter Claes, Dirk Vandermeulen, Anna C. Oettlé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: Facial disfigurement may affect the quality of life of many patients. Facial prostheses are often used as an adjuvant to surgical intervention and may sometimes be the only viable treatment option. Traditional methods for designing soft-tissue facial prostheses are time-consuming and subjective, while existing digital techniques are based on mirroring of contralateral features of the patient, or the use of existing feature templates/models that may not be readily available. We aim to support the objective and semi-automated design of facial prostheses with primary application to midline or bilateral defect restoration where no contralateral features are present. Specifically, we developed and validated a statistical shape model (SSM) for estimating the shape of missing facial soft tissue segments, from any intact parts of the face. Materials and Methods: An SSM of 3D facial variations was built from meshes extracted from computed tomography and cone beam computed tomography images of a black South African sample (n = 235) without facial disfigurement. Various types of facial defects were simulated, and the missing parts were estimated automatically by a weighted fit of each mesh to the SSM. The estimated regions were compared to the original regions using color maps and root-mean-square (RMS) distances. Results: Root mean square errors (RMSE) for defect estimations of one orbit, partial nose, cheek, and lip were all below 1.71 mm. Errors for the full nose, bi-orbital defects, as well as small and large composite defects were between 2.10 and 2.58 mm. Statistically significant associations of age and type of defect with RMSE were observed, but not with sex or imaging modality. Conclusion: This method can support the objective and semi-automated design of facial prostheses, specifically for defects in the midline, crossing the midline or bilateral defects, by facilitating time-consuming and skill-dependent aspects of prosthesis design.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Prosthodontics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • computer-aided design
  • facial prostheses
  • facial variation
  • midline defects
  • soft-tissue facial defects


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