Mar 14, 2016 | By Alec

Fortunately for a lot of people, prosthesis technology is steadily improving to a point where the quality of life of patients can be drastically improved. Unfortunately, partial amputees can sometimes find themselves between the two extremes of a good prosthesis and a normal limb. This happened to the 36-year-old Rajesh Ojha, who found himself unable to work after losing four fingers in an industrial accident. Fortunately, thanks to a custom-made 3D printed prosthetic hand with mechanical grip from Mumbai-based Anatomiz3D Healthcare, he has now been able to return to work and restore his livelihood.

It was a very unfortunate accident that sadly happens frequently in the industrializing world. As Ojha recalled, he was working on an industrial plant in Kutchh in western India at the time of the accident. “We were working on anchoring a ship and were then conducting further repair. However, there was a heavy pin which came with an iron base. As soon as I disconnected the pin, my fingers got stuck in the middle of the latchlike structure and I lost the middle three fingers of my hand as well as half of my thumb,” said Ojha. Though he was rushed to the hospital, his fingers unfortunately could not be saved.

It left him in a very uncomfortable position. Though he could get a cosmetic silicon prosthesis, that did not provide any movement at all and left him robbed of his livelihood. Fortunately for Ojha, the Mumbai-based prosthetics and orthotics specialist Dr. Doshi, who was also the honorary director of the Kutchh Jaya Rehabilitation Centre and Research Institute, was studying alternatives for patients like Ojha. “Patients who lose an entire palm or a hand were still able to get silicon based prosthesis. However, for those with partial amputation of fingers or amputations ahead of the joint, there were no options available,” he explained. “I was looking for a patient who would be ready to work with us in an experiment to create such a prosthesis.” The timing could not have been better.

Last weekend, Ohja was fitted with the prosthetic at the Jaya Rehabilitation Centre and Research Institute that resulted out of their collaboration. It is essentially a modified version of the Gyrobot open source Flexy Hand 2 design), and has been developed by Mumbai-based Anatomiz3D Healthcare (healthcare division of Sahas Softech LLP) and Dr. Mukesh Doshi. For most of the parties involved, they tell 3ders.org, it’s a first.

As Doshi revealed, he contacted Anatomiz3D Healthcare to deal with this special case. “I had read about Anatomiz3D Healthcare (Sahas Softech LLP) which had previously worked with 3D printing in healthcare and asked them if they’d be able to help. They asked me to send a Plaster of Paris cast of the patient’s hand,” he revealed. Firoza Kothari, the Head of Anatomiz3D Healthcare at Sahas Softech LLP, revealed that they were interested to help as they had previously worked on successful pre-operative surgical and educational models – though this was the first time they would make an actual prosthesis.

To build the prosthesis for Ojha, a four-step system was necessary. “[Firstly] scanning the POP cast, modifying the prosthesis (in this case: Flexy hand 2) based on the scan of the patient using exact measurements, 3D printing of the parts and then assembling of the same,” Firoza explained. “While the entire process was supposed to be feasible, it actually didn’t work out well the first time.” In the end, they had to revise the design entirely. The project further included Sagar Shah, Samkit Shah, Sohrab Kothari, Ameeth Deshpande, Sharad Kadke, Gopal and Suyog.

As Sohrab Kothari, Co-Founder of Sahas Softech LLP, explained, the 3D scanner was indispensable in making this 3D printed prosthetic. “First we scan the project which is to be printed to get the exact shape of the project and measurement correction. The scanner emits rays which give us a computerised 3D image of the object with cloud points. We make necessary changes and print the objects in parts to be assembled later,” explained Sohrab.

The final model was 3D printed in PLA, and took about a month to complete – though that can be much faster. “While the hand, created out of a Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) material, can be made within five days, it took us longer as the mold came in from Bhuj. The entire project was completed in a month’s time, considering the constant back and forth between two cities,” explained Ameeth Deshpande.

Fortunately, the second iteration was an excellent fit. Featuring a clever string-based gripping mechanism, it will even allow Ojha to start doing normal work again. “With practice he will be able to hold, throw, write and do all kinds of light work using the hand. The design is actually so simple that it works on strings which are attached to the wrist, as he moves the wrists; he will even be able to close his fingers into a fist,” said Doshi. Ojha, who had only been doing some light work before, said this will do a lot to make his life more normal again. “I am happy with the hand. I had started working on March 1 and was doing light work. Now, I will be able to do more. This has been a wonderful experiment.”

 

 

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