African countries such as Togo are not always in a position for top-notch medical care. While this may be the case normally, they are testing a new orthapaedic procedure that will revolutionise medical implementation. By 3D scanning and then producing crucial bone structures and supports, doctors can provide care to those who may not ordinarily receive it, either due to cost or due to inaccessibility. The technology allows for the cheaper and quicker production of bespoke devices within the region.
Geraldo Emmanuel, age 6, waits as doctors make an electronic scan of his right leg. He has suffered from a debilitating leg handicap since birth, however due to 3D printing and this orthopaedic procedure, he might be able to walk normally within a few weeks. “The child walks on his toes so I’m scanning his leg so we can make him an orthotic using a 3D printer,” said Enyonam Ekpoh, from Togo’s national orthopaedic device and physiotherapy centre (CNAO).
Similarly, a few hours after, another patient is to undergo her own tests. Adjovi Koudahe, 46, will get a 3D brace on her right leg. She was paralysed due to a vehicle accident this year. For these people, 3D printing serves as a fast-track method to individually-tailored prosthetics and orthopaedic supports. Similar orthapaedic projects have been underway for a long time but it’s important to note that they rarely reach some regions due to systemic issues and poverty. This project is hopefully a step towards curbing this inequality of opportunity.
Medical Printing in Disaffected Regions
Devices that came from overseas were indeed not just costly, but also took a long time to arrive. They could range from 1,500 to 2,000 euros each (from $1,745 to $2,330), a massive sum for an African patient. With this domestic production plan, the country could severely reduce such costs. This is especially necessary in regions where the average income can be as low as $100.
Such progress would not be possible without the work of multiple charities that fund medical programs. Humanity & Inclusion is pushing ahead with research and clinical trials to see how the technology can aid these communities. The project is also backed by funding from the Belgian Development Agency providing 700,000 euros ($816,000). While these contributions won’t fix systemic issues, they can provide necessary relief for citizens. It’s another case where modern technology and humanitarian action are providing crucial support to the vulnerable.
Featured image courtesy of AFP/Matteo Fraschini Koffi