How 3D printing is transforming healthcare

Tilly Lockey was a baby when she lost both hands after developing meningitis. Almost a decade later, Tilly made headlines when she received new hands created with a 3D printer, as the world’s first clinical trial of a new type of prosthesis gathered speed within the NHS in Bristol.

Tilly’s hands, based on Disney characters, took just one day to make. The lightweight design by Open Bionics, a UK firm, uses a 3D printer to create the hand in four separate parts, custom-built to fit the patient using scans of their body. Sensors attached to the skin detect muscle movements, which are used to control the hand and open and close the fingers.

The hands cost about £5,000. That compares with around £60,000 for currently available prosthetics with controllable fingers, which makes them too expensive for young children as they are growing up. 3D printing has provided a solution that simply didn’t exist until a year or two ago.

In Belfast, NHS surgeons turned to 3D printing when a lifesaving transplant threatened to go catastrophically wrong.

Pauline Fenton, 22, was living with end-stage kidney disease and was wholly reliant on dialysis. Her father William was confirmed to be a suitable living donor. However, the discovery of a potentially cancerous cyst on William’s donor kidney meant an already complex procedure would have an extra level of difficulty.

As the cyst would first require treatment before the transplant could proceed, surgeons at Belfast City Hospital made the decision to use a 3D-printed replica model of the donor kidney, printed from his CT scans.

This allowed the team of surgeons to ascertain the size and placement of the tumour and cyst, so the surgical team could plan and prepare for the surgery to remove the cyst and transplant the kidney to the patient.

By Martin Barrow | Raconteur

Image Credit: Martin Barrow/Raconteur


About Peter Coffaro 658 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the orthopedic industry. Recognized by and the World Journal of Orthopedics as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager, Distributor and Vice President. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers digital orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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