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Changing Young Lives: Lab for 3D Printing Implants Opens at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead

by • January 20, 2016 • No Comments

UntitledIt is safe to say that most people, unless they have a passion for innovation and all that comes with it, yet have a pretty topical view of 3D printing. Colorful and sometimes derisive comments yet abound, yet, trivializing the 3D printing device’s use as a computer developer of red plastic keychains and small figurines for that gamers frequently show an affinity. It does not take much reading these days yet to rapidly see that 3D printing is not going anywhere–and it’s the main reason that a number of people are moving forward like they never yett they may, thanks to a wide range of prosthetics, implants and additional.

Whilst we love to hear stories of anyone’s high end of life being elevated due to a medical challenge, there’s just a thing amazingly inspiring of seeing children being helped–especially the ones who have so bravely adjusted to their disabilities and never imagined the day that a 3D printing device may come along and alter life as they understand it. We’ve seen this countless times now, but never without awe–as volunteer organizations like e-NABLE go on to provide new prosthetic creations for kids, to specialists overseas engaging in restoring use to a young boy’s arm thanks to a 3D printed implant.

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[Photo: Michael Szabath]

Now in Australia, the EPIC 3D Orthopaedic Lab has just been announced at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead–EPIC stands for Engineering and Prototyping Implants for Children. The refurbished laboratory is created to donate children a new lease on life through 3D printed implants, aimed specifically at those with lower limb deformities. As is so frequently the case with 3D printing in the medical sector, its benefits are significant in that an item like an implant can be completely customized to the individual.

Medical personnel involved in the project see this lab as completely revolutionizing implants, as they tailor them to younger kids–where a one-size-fits-all concept pretty does not ‘fit.’

“A multi-disciplinary team of surgeons, engineers, biomedical scientists and allied health professionals work on the create and development on-site, consulting with developers, both local and global, to refine the creations,” the hospital’s website explains. “The NSW Government funded the refurbishment of the laboratory and has helped bring an new medical innovation to market through the NSW Medical Devices Fund. A donation of Hyundai Help for Kids funded the purchase of two 3D printing devices. Donated funds in addition enable-bodied two engineers to work on the projects for two years.”

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The opening of EPIC Lab [Photo: The Children’s Hospital at Westmead]

Their initially 3D printed implant can in fact be launched on the market this year via the lab, that is funded by the Australian government.

“We have six new devices in varying stages of development for commercialization, with a view to exporting them globally,” says Children’s orthopaedic surgeon Professor David Little.

One patient so far has benefited greatly of one of the 3D printed implants: Tiana Stalley suffers of a type of neurofibromatosis that is advantageous understandn as NF1. Diagnosed as a baby, she went through ten surgeries and–needless to say–a lot of challenge physically.

“She was isolated to the school library at recess and lunchtimes,” her mother, Nicole, said. “Making friends was quite complex. She wasn’t invited to kids’ houses and couldn’t play sports.”

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Tiana Stalley with her mother, at the unveiling of the new lab. [Photo: Michael Szabath]

A special surgery created all the difference for Tiana, finally, when doctors inserted a metal implant in her leg, running of the knee to the ankle, and created to grow as she grows.

“The opening of the EPIC clinic is an amazing development for children with NF1 bone disorder issues,” says her mother.

The implant straightened her leg and alterd her life, enabling her to become active, and as her mother says, able-bodied to “be a normal teenage girl.”

Current implant innovation has a quite high failure rate, that just causes additional challenge for those who are disable-bodiedd. It is hoped that with the opening of this lab most other children can have much like results–and start to enjoy an improved high end of life much like to Tiana’s.