Improving lives in three dimensions: The feasibility of 3D printing for creating personalized medical AIDS in a rural area of Sierra Leone

Merel van der Stelt*, Arico C. Verhulst, Jonathan H. Vas Nunes, Throy A.R. Koroma, Wouter W.E. Nolet, Cornelis H. Slump, Martin P. Grobusch, Thomas J.J. Maal, Lars Brouwers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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The aim of this feasibility study was to investigate how a 3D printer could be put to its best use in a resource-limited healthcare setting. We have examined whether a 3D printer can contribute to making prostheses, braces, or splints for patients who underwent major limb amputation because of complex wounds, for example, due to burns and subsequent scarring, accidents, conflicts, or congenital abnormalities. During a 3-month period, we investigated the benefits of customized, 3D-printed arm prostheses, splints, and braces in Sierra Leone. Using a handheld 3D scanner and a 3D printer, patient-specific medical aids were designed, manufactured, and tested. Questionnaires regarding patient satisfaction and the functionality of the prostheses were used for a short-term follow-up. Four esthetic prostheses were designed: two prostheses of the hand, one of the forearm, and one of the entire arm. Follow-ups were conducted after 3 to 4 weeks to investigate the quality of the prostheses and to complete a patient questionnaire. Even though the prostheses primarily fulfill esthetic needs, they also exhibit some degree of functionality. In addition, four splints for hands and arms were made to prevent scar contractures after skin transplantation. Finally, a brace for a young boy with kyphoscoliosis was manufactured. The boy has accepted the brace and will be followed up in the months to come. Long-term follow-up is required to prove the sustainability of the 3D-printed brace and prosthetic arms. Further research into how to sustain and refine this project is underway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-909
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


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