Dubai's First 3D Printed Limb


Fraser Clarke

A British expat living in Dubai has become the Gulf’s first recipient of a 3D printed prosthetic limb, potentially revealing the future for millions of amputees worldwide.

At a specially arranged press conference on Wednesday (31/5) at the DHA’s headquarters, Belinda Gatland was presented with the new device, which was paid for by Informa as part of the UAE’s ‘Year of Giving’ initiative.

Gatland lost her leg a decade ago following a horse riding accident, and since then has spent thousands on new prosthetic limbs in an attempt to find one with the right fit, that suited her active lifestyle. Now she believes that she has finally found it, as she told the gathered media: “This is better than the conventional prosthetic that I have been wearing until now, because this is lighter and gives more bounce, I can almost feel my toes!"

Developments in three-dimensional printing technology look set to change the medical sector for ever, with its uses not restricted solely to the creation of artificial limbs. Recently medics in Dubai used a 3D printed Kidney to work out how best to operate on a patient, whilst research is ongoing into the potential of 3D printing live cells in the future.

The cost of a basic prosthetic limb is around Dh20,000 (around £4200), however for those who are aiming to maintain a more active lifestyle this can rise to as much as Dh80,000 (£17,000). 3D printing can reduce the cost to around Dh40,000 (£8000) for a high end, fully functional and specially designed model.

Lower costs aren’t the only benefit, up to four can be printed at one time, making the process a lot quicker, whilst it can be tailored specifically for a patient’s needs and sizes. On top of this the template can be saved remotely, and easily re-printed using any surgical 3D printer worldwide in the event of it getting damaged.

Sebastian Giede, orthopaedic prosthetist with Mediclinic in Dubai, is excited about what the future could hold. He told the press conference: “The potential of 3D printing in the field of prosthetic devices is huge. It allows for faster turnaround times, more personalisation in both design and functionality, and greater flexibility when it comes to replacement."

For almost two decades now Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates as a whole, has been at the forefront of advancements in medical technology. That is a fact that doesn’t look like changing any time soon either, with the country looking to spearhead developments in 3D printing medical technology.

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