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3D printed legs offer new lease of life for Emirati double amputee

3d printed legs being presented
Emirati Paralympic champion Fahad Mohammed Ali who had been wearing wooden prosthetic legs for over 15 years receives 3D printed transtibial prosthetics.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has announced that an Emirati double amputee has become the first in the region to receive 3D printed transtibial prosthetics.

25-year-old Fahad Mohammed Ali, a Paralympic champion from Dubai, who had been wearing wooden prosthetic legs for over 15 years will now walk in his customised orange 3D prosthetics.

The initiative to provide Ali with 3D prosthetics was undertaken by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in partnership with Mediclinic, Mercuris, a German company specialised in enabling digital prosthetics and orthotics, and Immensa Technology Labs, a Dubai-based privately-owned company specialising in the development and advancement of 3D printing.

The department of humanitarian services at the DHA fully supported and funded the initiative.

Fahad Mohammed Ali, a champion wheelchair racer and an engineer with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), can now walk with the maximum feeling of anatomical function due to his 3D prosthetics. “My life has been transformed,” he said.

3D printing has brought a new level of personalised patient care to the healthcare sector in the UAE. According to His Excellency Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority, said, “In line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the DHA has prioritised fostering the development of future technologies such as 3D printing in healthcare to provide high-quality patient-centric care.”

He added, “We are keen to use this technology in the health sector to improve efficiencies, enhance healthcare management, improve overall workflows and most importantly further improve patient care. This is truly heartening as it is an example of how healthcare technology directly improves the patient’s quality of life. We aim to continue harnessing manpower, collaborating and investing in future health technologies to serve our community.”

Dr Mohammad Al Redha, the Director of the Executive Office for Organisational Transformation at DHA, said, “This is a unique collaboration that allows us to see the most modern technology develop and become a reality. Our aim at the DHA is to provide patients with the best possible care and thus we are happy to bring together international and local stakeholders to work jointly on future technologies. The work we have done so far is part of the foundation of future 3D printing research and development work in the UAE.”

Ali, who received the 3D prosthetics, said, “For the past 15 years I have been using regular prosthetics until I received the 3D prosthetics. My life has been transformed for the better. The 3D prosthetics make me feel like I got my legs back and it is simply incredible. I am very thankful to the leaders of the UAE and the DHA.”

With more than 25 years of experience in the field, Sebastian Giede, Certified Orthopaedic Prosthetist with Mediclinic, said, “The potential of 3D printing in the field of prosthetic devices is huge. It allows for faster turnaround times; we can get a foot customised within two to three weeks. It also provides more personalisation in terms of both design and functionality as these are designed using lightweight and strong materials. It also provides greater flexibility when it comes to replacement. The functionality of 3D printed prosthetics is superior as it allows us to design completely individualised models as compared to mass manufactured prosthetics.”

Giede added that every aspect including the colour can be individualised.

Ali said, “I chose orange prosthetics as it is an attractive and positive colour. I even wear shorts now as I am confident and can show off my prosthetics.”

In terms of the process of designing the 3D prosthetics, Giede, said, “We conducted several 3D scans of the patient’s amputated legs. After that, we used a CAD software programme to design and modify the inner shape of the prosthesis. Then the test socket was 3D printed so that we could use it on the patient to control the size and make changes that will help provide the patient with maximum comfort and functional alignment.”

Dubai-based Immensa Technology Labs, the UAE’s leading Additive Manufacturing (AM or 3D printing) company, provided the test socket and final socket, which is about 40 per cent of the 3D prosthetics.

Fahmi Al Shawwa, CEO of Immensa Technology Labs, said, “3D printing technology provides a massive opportunity for Dubai to become competitive across various sectors including medical and we are proud to be working with the DHA and Sebastian Giede to realise this potential. Immensa is investing heavily in developing 3D printing capabilities and knowledge in line with the ‘Dubai 3D Printing Strategy’ and we believe that we need to see more private sector participation and involvement to fully capitalise on this technology on a wider UAE scale.”

The rest of the 3D prosthetics were provided by Mecuris, a German company that combines existing industrial 3D technologies like 3D scanning, 3D data processing and 3D printing into an innovative process of digital tailoring for orthopaedics.

Manuel Opitz, CEO of Mecuris GmbH Germany said he is delighted about the professional and visionary collaboration between Mecuris, Mediclinic and DHA. “We team up with medical professionals to co-create - with users and wearers - customised O&P products. This now is the second time we have worked together. With partners like this, boundaries are non-existent and the patient’s needs and preferences are at the centre of a truly individual care, enabling us to enrich the wearer’s life.”

Giede constructed the prosthetics in Dubai. He said, “We are proud that we were able to provide Fahad with 100 per cent customised 3D printed prosthetics that provides a natural feeling of anatomical movement to the maximum extent possible.”

This is the second time the DHA has collaborated with Mediclinic and Mecuris for 3D prosthetics. In 2017, the Authority and Informa Life Sciences collaborated with them and with Prosfit to provide a Dubai resident with a 3D prosthesis.

The 3D printed prosthetic leg was donated to Belinda Gatland, a British expat who had been an amputee for more than 10 years – following a life-changing event after a horse riding accident at the age of 22. With subsequent necrosis (premature death of tissue or bone cells) leaving her in immense pain, she ultimately had to have her left leg amputated. Belinda become the first amputee in the region to wear a completely 3D printed prosthetic leg as part of the Dubai Health Authority’s Year of Giving initiative in 2017.

Salim Bin Lahej, Director of Humanitarian Services Department at the DHA said that the department was proud that they were able to provide Fahad Ali with prosthetics using the most modern technology.

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