For more than 15 of his 25 years, Fahed Mohamad Ali relied heavily on a wheelchair, his wooden prosthetic legs more cosmetic than functional. But now Ali has become the first Emirati to receive two 3D printed transtibial prosthetics, which attach just below the knee, about a year after the region’s first fully 3D printed prosthetic leg was fitted. He is thrilled to be up and walking, running, and cycling, describing the prosthetics as “life-changing.”
“It has been simply amazing. These prosthetics have changed the way I walk, run, cycle and do everything else,” he told Gulf News this week.
“I feel a big difference when I am wearing them in terms of stability, comfort levels and functionality. I can actually feel my toes when I walk, and I feel no different to anyone else. I am very happy to receive this treatment in my own country, and I look at the future with a lot of promise.”
Ali is an assistant engineer at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), which is heavily invested in 3D printing itself, dedicating resources to 3D printed laboratories and 3D printing-centric Innovation Centers, just to name a couple of its projects. Dubai, of course, is on a quest to become the leading 3D printing city in the world, and has been making significant progress in multiple areas, healthcare being one of them. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) led the initiative to provide Ali with his prosthetic legs, in partnership with Mediclinic, German company Mercuris, and Immensa Technology Labs, Dubai’s first 3D printing facility.
There’s nothing subtle about Ali’s bright orange prosthetic legs, and that’s exactly what he wants.
“I chose orange as it is an attractive and positive colour,” he said. “I even wear shorts now as I am confident and can show off my prosthetics.”
Sebastian Giede, a certified orthopedic prosthetist with Mediclinic, extolled the benefits of 3D printing when it comes to prosthetics: customization, lightweight and strong materials, and low cost that allows them to be easily replaced if necessary.
“We conducted several 3D scans of the patient’s amputated legs,” said Giede. “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.”
The test sockets as well as the final sockets, which make up about 40 percent of the prosthetics, were 3D printed in Dubai, while the rest of them were 3D printed in Germany. According to Dr. Mohammad Al Reda, Director of the Executive Office for Organisational Transformation at DHA, the goal is to make 3D printed prosthetics available to anyone who needs them.
“The calculations can be taken here in Dubai locally,” he said. “We use a certain degree of artificial intelligence to calculate the dimensions of what’s remaining of the limb and how to generate the 3D-printed limb for the patient.”
Ali’s case is another step for Dubai in becoming a leader in 3D printing technology, as well as another step for 3D printed prosthetics overall, and a beacon of hope for those in the UAE who are missing limbs.
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