After IDF soldier takes bullet to face, doctors rebuild his jaw in high-tech op

Two weeks after he was shot in the head, surgeons at Rambam Hospital used 3D tech to fix the captain’s face, which will soon be close to normal with the exception of some scarring

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

3D imaging of "Dalet's" jaw after injury, with the bullet shown. (Courtesy of Rambam Healthcare Campus)
3D imaging of "Dalet's" jaw after injury, with the bullet shown. (Courtesy of Rambam Healthcare Campus)

Using advanced 3D technology, doctors have successfully reconstructed the jaw of an IDF soldier two weeks after a bullet hit near his brain, eyes, and tongue during a firefight near Jenin.

The 34-year-old soldier, who can only be referred to as Captain “Dalet,” the first Hebrew initial of his name, was one of two soldiers to be seriously injured in raids in the early hours of September 26.

Dalet was hit by several bullets during an exchange of fire in the town of Burqin outside Jenin in the northern West Bank. He suffered gunshot wounds to the lower abdomen, and one bullet hit his left lower jaw, resulting in multiple facial fractures.

Doctors are used to reconstructing one side of the face when the other side is healthy and can be used as a guide, but in Dalet’s case, this wasn’t possible, and doctors at Rambam Healthcare Campus in Haifa had to find another solution.

“In most cases, we do imaging of the healthy side and use those images to plan and repair the injured side. However, in this case, both sides were injured,” Prof. Adi Rachmiel, director of Rambam’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, told The Times of Israel.

Doctors created computerized 3D models of his jaw and printed them in order to prepare for the complex surgery. On Sunday they carried out the operation, and the soldier’s jaw is now poised for a full recovery.

“We used a new method that resulted in a fast and safe operation and very good results,” Rachmiel said. “His face will get back close to normal, with the exception of some scars on his skin.”

The soldier’s father, Yossi, said afterwards: “I was stressed, but the result of the surgery was more than perfect. We thank all the medical staff.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits one of the soldiers hurt in the West Bank raid against a Hamas cell, at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, September 27, 2021. (courtesy)

Rachmiel said it was a miracle that the bullet did not strike vital areas that could have led to Dalet’s immediate death. Still, he stressed, the injuries sustained created the need for a highly complex surgery, especially as there was a fracture close to the eye socket.

“Once the facial bones are involved, the airways also become involved, and in this case the bullet hit very close to the brain, eyes, and tongue,” said Rachmiel. “It was clear to us that due to the nature of Captain Dalet’s facial injuries, we would have to do a full anatomical reconstruction of the bones.”

Doctors at Rambam Healthcare Campus performing a jaw reconstruction surgery on “Dalet” on October 17, 2021, with Prof. Adi Rachmiel in the center. (courtesy of Rambam Healthcare Campus)

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