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First 3D-printed above-knee prosthetics in Masanga Hospital Sierra Leone

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During the past few years, research is being conducted focusing on the manufacture of transtibial and upper limb prosthetics. Since this year, we are also focusing on the transfemoral (above-knee) prosthetics. A pilot study aims to examine whether it is feasible to use CAD/CAM techniques to design and manufacture above-knee prostheses for people in Sierra Leone.

Preliminary research was conducted in the Netherlands following an iterative design process. Different types of prosthetic sockets and suspension systems were realized and evaluated during clinical assessments with two Dutch participants. The study was then continued in Sierra Leone where two persons having a unilateral transfemoral amputation were asked to participate in the research. Jorg Verhagen and Tjesje Toering cooperated with the local staff to manufacture the prostheses.

One of the included patients was Sheku, a highly active man motivated to walk again with a functional prosthetic device. During the day, he works very hard as a house builder to provide his wife and children with the necessary resources and to support them in daily tasks such as school or householding. Despite his high mobility when using his crutches, the amputation does limit him from performing his job to the best of his ability or walking long distances to the market.

After several weeks of prosthetic rehabilitation, the prostheses were handed over to the patients to take home. Both patients are very happy with the result. The prostheses made them feel more complete and confident, for instance, because they could wear long trousers again when visiting friends, going to the mosque, working as a house builder, or gardening.

Given his flexion contracture, the socket was set in 10 degrees of flexion to properly align the knee and other components with the socket and the stump.

Further research will be conducted to improve the above-knee prosthetics, the manufacturing workflow and to gain more insights into the long-term results.