Health & medicine

3D printing devices on site – healthcare hazard or hero?

The FDA is seeking public feedback on the 3D printing of medical devices at healthcare facilities to assess regulatory needs. Abi Millar explores the potential of 3D printing at the point of care and the challenges involved.

When used at the point of care, 3D printing allows for personalised medical devices and implants to be manufactured almost at the patient’s bedside. This might be a customised prosthetic limb, an orthopedic implant, or a patient-matched anatomical model used to plan surgery.

In other words, the technology could make one-size-fits-all devices a thing of the past. Production would be quick and inexpensive. And because it takes place in the hospital itself, you could effectively eliminate the gap between healthcare provider and device manufacturer.

“It can also promote collaboration and innovation,” say John Fuson and Hilary Johnson, lawyers at Crowell & Moring. “For example, 3D printing at the point of care can allow physicians to work directly with engineers doing the manufacturing itself, even in real time, to generate solutions and ensure that the manufactured device functions as intended.”

However, as with all new technologies, it is wise to proceed with caution. While the technology is spreading rapidly across the medical field – as of 2020, there were over 100 hospitals in North America with a 3D printing facility – there are still some questions that need asking.

Read the rest of this article in the February 2022 edition of Medical Technology

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