May 31, 2017 | By David

3D printed prosthetics are among the most important and life-changing applications of additive manufacturing technology, and we’ve reported extensively on the advances that have been made in this field throughout the world. The Middle Eastern gulf is the latest region to see a major breakthrough here, with its first fully 3D printed prosthetic leg being fitted for a resident of the UAE.

Belinda Gatland is a British expat living in Dubai, and she has suffered severe problems with her left leg since a horse racing accident in her early 20s. Her leg had twisted badly, and the bones below her knee completely shattered. The damage eventually led to the premature death of tissue and bone cells, which is known as necrosis. This left her in agony on and off for nearly two decades. At the age of 40, after undergoing nine separate operations without seeing much improvement, she decided to have the leg amputated.

Gatland received a conventionally made prosthetic, but muscular atrophy around the knee caused her leg to continuously shrink, which meant that replacement prosthetics had to be regularly fitted. The quality of prosthetics available on the British National Health Service at the time was limited, and she was forced to pay out considerable amounts to private healthcare firms for the kind of prosthetics that would allow her to maintain an active lifestyle. Now 3D printing technology has enabled the production of an advanced prosthetic leg for her, at a fraction of the cost of the ones she was previously using.

Before being fitted in Dubai, Gatland’s new prosthetic leg was 3D printed in separate parts, with manufacturing taking place partly in Germany and partly in Bulgaria. Conventionally produced prosthetic legs in Dubai can cost anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 Emirati Dirhams ($5,455 - $21,780), with the advanced, blade-like prosthetics that enable wearers to play sports and do other physically demanding activities starting at at least 60,000 Dirhams ($16,334). A 3D printed equivalent with similar functionality, like Gatland’s, costs around half this amount.

The new 3D printed leg was paid for by Informa, organizer of the the Arab Health medical mega-forum in January, along with the Dubai Health Authority. It was fitted by Sebastian Giede, a Certified Orthopaedic Prosthetist with Mediclinic. “The potential of 3D printing in the field of prosthetic devices is huge,” he says. “It allows for faster turnaround times, more personalization in terms of both design and functionality, as well as great flexibility when it comes to replacement.”

The full amount of the DHA donation that enabled Gatland to get back some sense of normalcy and an active lifestyle wasn’t disclosed, but it was made as part of the UAE’s nationwide Year of Giving initiative. Humaid Al Qutami, chairman of the board and director-general of DHA, said that the development of 3D printed prosthetics such as this are a major focus for the agency, as they look to the future of healthcare in the region: “The DHA has prioritised fostering the development of future technologies such as 3D printing in health care,” he said. “We are keen to bring in the latest technology in medicine to further bolster patient-centric care and improve the lives of our patients to the best extent possible.”

Gatland has maintained a positive outlook throughout all her personal hardships, and has been a proud prosthetic user—even collaborating with Swarovski to make a glamorous crystal-encrusted prosthetic leg for a charity photo shoot back in 2014 . Reports suggest that she is more than satisfied with her newest prosthetic, which she has now been wearing for almost a week. “This new technology is unbelievable,” she said. “I’m really impressed with the foot I’ve got. It feels very real, and it’s very comfortable.”

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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