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3D Printing

 

3D printing in medicine is taking off due to a recent decision by The FDA on August 8, 2016 to close comments on newer devices that were put under review in May, according to The Hill. Now, there are almost 90 types of 3D printed medical-related devices being used by doctors or pending approval, and five will likely become prominent in every medical office in the country. Written below, these five 3D printing medical devices are detailed, and specialty offices or all-purpose clinics in rural areas may find that they are using all of this technology in the next two years.

 

Printing skin instead of giving stitches

 

One of the routine procedures that doctors are known for involves giving a patient stitches when they have an accident. However, instead of numbing the area and using traditional stitches or skin glue, doctors will now have the option of 3D printing the skin. This is particularly helpful for doctors treating an area of the body that will later require plastic surgery, such as the face. This is also a helpful device for treating areas of the body that are thin-skinned such as ears, lips and other parts of the face.

 

Making everyday lab equipment

 

Instead of heavily relying on an office manager to do all of the ordering of everyday plastic medical equipment for a doctor's office, 3D printing could be used instead. Along with plastic applicators that are used one time and thrown away, there are other types of equipment needed for the office itself that can be 3D printed. This will mean a savings in shipping for the supplies, and not needing to reschedule patients for testing because the office ran out of the proper tools. Most of the 3D printed tools can be made the day before or within minutes.

 

Saving patients with prosthetics worry and money

 

Enterprise Imaging companies and other technologies have worked with 3D printing in medicine to help patients with prosthetics. Many older patients are able to keep their prosthetics in good working order, but children have two main problems with prosthetics that 3D printers solve. First of all, children outgrow their prosthetics rapidly. Secondly, children are known for breaking their prosthetics. A third advantage for prosthetics users of any age is getting a better fit with the 3D printing because unusable prosthetics are cheap enough to throw away for a better, customized model made on the printer.

 

Making certain types of medications

 

Certain types of medications are easily made on a 3D printer because the machine can create the pills on a chemical-structure level. Along with having common medications readily available for patients, 3D-printed pills allow for interesting new pill shapes that completely alter the drugs’ release rates, according to Sculpteo. Access to 3D printing medications is especially helpful for rural clinics that serve a financially unstable population.

 

Customized medical tools

 

Doctors that have always wished that they could find medical tools that are customized in size have an array of size options thanks to 3D printing. In addition to making medical tools that will allow the user to grasp them firmly and precisely, the patient can also be the reason for the customization with 3D printed medical tools. For example, tools that need to accommodate a smaller person for surgery will produce a better rate of post-surgery success because cutting depth can be limited with customized tools.

 

Creating low-cost casts that expedite healing

In rural areas, it is common to have an all-purpose doctor that has a few specializations such as setting broken bones. One of the main issues in these cases is having the time to set the cast and aiding the patient in the recovery process. Interestingly, there are reports that state the customized casts created with 3D printing improve recovery rates up to 80-percent, according to Harvard Business Review.

 

Lee Flynn is from the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, UT. After Lee spent years preparing himself, his home and his family, he decided he had to do more. In his free time, Lee helps educate those who want to do the same. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, food storage techniques, wilderness survival and self reliance. After obtaining a bachelors degree from the University of Utah, Lee moved to the Salt Lake Valley where he now lives with his wife and daughter.

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