Ottawa Hospital recently announced the opening of one of Canada’s first medical 3-D printing programs.
The events featured two beneficiaries of the groundbreaking program. David Chasse a man who lost four fingers in a motorcycle accident, leaving only the thumb, demonstrated his custom prosthetic hand that was created using 3-D technology. With a simple twist of his wrist the hard polymer joints contract allowing him to grab items and do routine tasks, like put on clothes, with relative ease. Sebastian Chavarria is another beneficiary of the 3-D printed prosthetic, which not only let this young man have a fuller range of mobility for his hand but let him choose the color he wanted it to be to match with his favorite superhero. In case you were wondering, that’s Spider-Man.
A real-life hero is Dr. Frank Rybicki the chief of medical imaging at the hospital. He sees programs like these as just the beginning. “Think of this as the first cell phone … It’s going to get smaller, less expensive, more powerful, but the concept will be the same,” he told the Ottawa Sun.
While the program is a first for Canada, 3-D printing is becoming an institutional phenomenon across the globe allowing medical professionals to help patients in ways not thought possible, at a low cost and with low risk. For example, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo uses 3-D printing to train doctors and to give doctors a model to practice on before complex surgeries. 3-D printing also allows medical tools to be printed virtually anywhere, even outer space.
The cost for the patient is already cheaper. Where traditional prosthetics cost thousands of dollars, the 3-D printed versions are mere hundreds.
The printer works using polymers that are “printed” layer by layer onto a build tray and hardened by ultraviolet light. This is the case for other medical uses of 3-D printing like tumor surgeries and skull implants. But the invocative technology seeks to use silicone, metal, rubber, and, perhaps of most interest to medical professionals, human cells.