3D Sierra Leone
In collaboration with the 3D laboratory at the Radboudumc, we set up a pilot 3D lab in the Masanga Hospital in Sierra Leone. In 2018/2019, we performed a first feasibility study to investigate the use of a 3D printer in a resource-limited healthcare setting. We produced Low-cost 3D-printed arm prostheses and other medical aids. The next clinical research in 2020, we conducted to test low-cost 3D-printed transtibial prostheses in practical life.
We did technical studies in which we investigated the strength of the prostheses at the Radboudumc. The initial pilot designs were first tried and tested by Dutch patients.
The 3D lab in Sierra Leone is run by Dutch Technical Medicine students, who collaborate with local physiotherapists, prosthetic specialists and national rehabilitation program in Sierra Leone. We created a partnership in which both the Dutch interns and the local population learn by exchanging knowledge in the field of culture, medicine and technology.
The uniqueness of this project is that we research on a scientific basis. We publish all our work and clinical outcomes in international peer-reviewed scientific journals.
For a project like this to run on its own, it must become sustainable, meaning that prostheses must be affordable for the local population. Also, the project has to be carried out by the local community. The process of manufacturing prostheses must be as standardized and easy as possible to achieve this. We believe it is necessary to continue monitoring patients in the future to collect data and prove sustainability.
Within the framework of this project, we try to recruit and train as many local staff as possible. Our goal is to make the project completely independent an run by the local population.
There is an urgent need for prostheses in low- and middle-income countries. In Sierra Leone, many amputations occur due to complex wounds caused by traffic accidents, infections and delayed patient presentation to the hospital. Besides, many patients lost their limbs due to acts of violence during the Civil War (1991-2002).
In Sierra Leone, the vast majority of people still do not have access to prostheses due to a lack of knowledge, availability of materials or trained staff and high costs. As a result, people often feel incomplete, which can lead to jealousy, insecurity, and depression. Having a prosthesis will enable them to a part of society again and will boost their confidence.
Access to 3D printing, even in its most basic form, can provide a useful and essential tool for manufacturing locally relevant medical aids, such as braces, splints and prostheses at a reasonable cost.
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, and Lars Brouwers