Pioneering low-cost 3D-printed transtibial prosthetics to serve a rural population in Sierra Leone – an observational cohort study

Masanga 3D prosthesis printing research group

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Abstract

Background: There is a huge unmet global need for affordable prostheses. Amputations often happen in Sierra Leone due to serious infections, complex wounds, traffic accidents and delayed patient presentation to the hospital. However, purchasing a prosthesis is still beyond reach for most Sierra Leonean amputees. Method: We applied computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) to produce low-cost transtibial prosthetic sockets. In February and March 2020, eight participants received a 3D printed transtibial prosthesis in the village of Masanga in Tonkolili district, Sierra Leone. Research was performed using questionnaires to investigate the use, participants’ satisfaction, and possible complications related to the prostheses. Questionnaires were conducted prior to production of the prosthesis and five to six weeks after fitting the prosthesis. A personal short-term goal was set by the participants. Findings: Competitively priced and fully functional prostheses were produced locally. After six weeks, all participants were still wearing the prosthesis and six of the eight participants reached their personal rehabilitation goals. Using their prostheses, all participants were no longer in need of their crutches. Interpretation: We have come a step closer to the production of low-cost prostheses for low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). The goal of our project is to perform long-term follow-up and to refine our concept of 3D printed prostheses for LMICs to provide practical solutions for a global health need unmet to date. Funding: € 15,000 was collected during a crowdfunding campaign in collaboration with the Dutch Albert Schweitzer Fund. Internship allowance for MvdS was obtained from the University of Twente. 3D-scanner, 3D-printer, and printing material were donated by Ultimaker BV and Shining 3D.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100874
JournalEClinicalMedicine
Volume35
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Follow-up
  • Fused deposition modelling
  • Low-cost
  • Sierra Leone
  • Transtibial prosthetic socket
  • 3D-printing

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