Feb 8, 2017 | By David

We’ve seen several times before the incredible breakthroughs that are being made by 3D printing in the field of medicine, as it allows prosthetic body parts to be easily designed, cheaply produced, and personalized to an individual wearer’s needs. This month will see the introduction of the technology in one of the places where this kind of care is most urgently required. A new 3D printer, capable of producing prosthetic ears and eyes, will be installed in a hospital in the Jordanian capital of Amman that tends to the victims of conflicts from all over the war-torn Middle Eastern region.

Jordan is one of the few stable countries that remain in the Middle East, and can function as a refuge of sorts for people affected by atrocities in neighboring Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, and Palestine. The reconstructive surgery hospital in Amman, run by Medecins Sans Frontieres, is the only one of its kind in the region. It provides essential care and support to people who have suffered from all manner of serious injuries and trauma resulting from the chaotic violence that continues to blight the surrounding area.

The hospital has carried out at least 10,000 operations on over 4,500 patients, casualties of war both armed and civilian, as well as victims of torture. For over 10 years it has been treating patients at risk of amputation, confined to wheelchairs, or suffering from serious burns. Often artificial skin needs to be fitted, or hips and joints need to be replaced. The installation of the new 3D printer means that the scope of the hospital’s treatment can be extended even further, as patients who are missing eyes or ears can now be helped out by the medical team as never before.

The advantages of using 3D technology to produce prosthetics are numerous, as we have reported on many occasions. Due to the relative cheapness of the materials, 3D printed prosthetic body parts can be produced much more easily, particularly in a situation such as the one faced in the Middle East, where resources are not always easy to come by. 3D printing also drastically speeds up the manufacturing process, particularly in the case of smaller, more detailed items. This is hugely beneficial when considering the volume of patients that the MSF in Amman has to deal with, and the rate at which violence can escalate.

Furthermore, the ability to manufacture something directly according to the specifications of a 3D computer design allows for a huge range of customization possibilities. A new body part can be personalized exactly as the user wishes it to be. When applied to the production of replacement eyes or ears, as the MSF are doing in Jordan, 3D printing technology enables a wearer to be fitted with something that is exactly tailored to his or her own body. The exact hue of an iris can be replicated, for example, as can the shape of an ear. This makes a huge difference to the patient’s life, offering some form of restoration to normalcy for these individuals who have been through unimaginable trauma, psychological as well as physical, and who may not have access to support networks or even pharmaceuticals when they return to their homes.

Images: Vice

As terrible as the conflicts in the Middle East are and will continue to be, it is definitely encouraging to see the possibilities for treatment being expanded through 3D printing. The progress that has been made by the MSF in Amman is an example of the way 3D technology can enable positive and productive reactions to such a tragedy. Moreover, the fact that the technology is still in its relative infancy means that victims of violence there and elsewhere can legitimately hope to see more and more options available in the future, for them to be eventually set on the path to recovery.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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