3D-printed implants make their way into NSW hospitals

Date: Jan 27, 2016

The loss of a limb is traumatic for people of any age, and while there are a number of different amputee and limb-replacement options to ensure these people recover properly, medical procedures don't always go to plan. 

Hospitals in Sydney are debuting a new process for creating prosthetic limbs for amputees in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that around 80,000 people a year lose a limb as the result of an injury, so any development that makes the recovery process easier for victims is likely to be well-received. 

The new development will see medical professionals 3D print prosthetic limbs. While expected to offer patients a range of benefits, as it's an unproven technology it could lead to medical negligence claims

Why are 3D-printed limbs appealing?

There are a number of reasons 3D printing is making a mark on the biomedical products industry. Traditionally, these have been extremely expensive to manufacture. Not only are they made of premium materials, the fact that each creation is being attached to a unique human means high-volume production is usually out of the question. 

Put simply, 3D printing offers medical professionals the ability to create prosthetic limbs in a cheaper – and likely quicker – manner. Health Minister Jillian Skinner discussed how these advantages will specifically be targeted at children needing replacement limbs. 

"3D technology is revolutionising implants, which can now be tailored to a child's individual needs," she began. "This means less time in hospital, a shorter period of healing and, most importantly, better functioning for the growing child."

While a number of developments are in production, the first to be released is set to replace an option with a notably high fail rate. The implant rod technology currently available to children with brittle bone disease or other leg problems has a failure rate of 40 per cent.

These 3D-printed alternatives to traditional implants and prosthetics are intended to reduce this failure rate, but as they are still a relatively unknown quantity, any unexpected complications or failures could be seen as the basis for a medical negligence claim. 

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