Plastic surgeons at the University of Montreal have managed to reconstruct a young man’s face, all while leaving him with no visible scars. It’s a pioneering moment, as most facial reconstructions (or the previous injuries) often leave permanent scars.

The team was led by Daniel Borsuk, a physician and plastic surgeon at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont and a professor at the University of Montreal. The patient, Alex, was a 23-year-old man who had received damage to the right side of his face during an altercation in his teenage years — his cheekbone and eye socket were completely crushed. The bone trauma made his face lopsided, and it spurred him to look for cosmetic treatment among plenty of different doctors, but most reconstruction attempts resulted in life-threatening infections and other complications that prevented him from living a normal life.

Alex ended up turning to Borsuk, hoping someone could give him his normal life back. Borsuk had been involved in a groundbreaking face transplant in 2012, in which doctors reconstructed a man’s face after it had been destroyed by a gunshot. “[Alex] said, ‘You have to do anything you can to fix this,” Borsuk told the Montreal Gazette. “A lot of my patients don’t leave home. They shy away from society and many lose their jobs because they don’t want to go to work and be seen by people who knew them before.”

Borsuk created a 3D-printed model of his skull, which he then used to identify which pieces needed to be replaced by new bone. Doctors then took a piece of bone from Alex’s pelvis, still connected to a vein and artery, and turned it into a new cheekbone that could be attached to his skull. “We keep the artery and the vein with the piece of bone that we have,” Borsuk said in a video. “That’s going to make the piece of bone heal like it’s a normal piece from your body, that heals within three to six weeks.”

Amazingly, the team was able to make an incision through Alex’s mouth to insert the new bone into his skull, leaving no scar when he was finally healed. “We went in and cleared off all the scar tissue that was causing [Alex] pain, we cleaned off where the nerve was… when we passed the bone, it clicked on like a puzzle,” Borsuk told the Montreal Gazette.

Previously, physicians have used 3D-printing to reconstruct bones, faces, and even skulls, but this was the first instance in which surgeons were able to reconstruct a face without scarring. It offers hope to other patients who suffer from the pain and isolation of injuries.

“The operation, during which the latest technologies were applied to reconstructive plastic surgery, sends a real message of hope to anyone who feels they must simply live with this type of disfigurement and who often feels so self-conscious that they isolate themselves,” Borsuk said in a press release.