Open Source Technology Enables 3D Printed Surgical Table

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Credit: Joshua Pearce

A collaborative project between Western Engineering and Michigan Tech University has successfully built a functional 3D-printed surgical fracture table at a fraction of what it would normally cost.

Their work has been published in the high-impact journal PLOS ONEdescribing step-by-step innovative techniques to build a functionally comparable operating table using open source hardware and 3D printing.

The study could have a significant impact in the developing world, where the financial burden of medical equipment is a significant barrier to universal access to healthcare. The capital cost of a surgical table for fractures, for example, would typically cost upwards of $250,000.

Joshua Pearce, John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation at Western University, and his collaborators at Western Engineering and Michigan Tech University, used an open source desktop 3D printer and fabricated the components needed for the cost-effective surgical table in just over a week of continuous printing.

The final built operating table costs just under $4,000, a savings of 98.5% over commercially available systems. Pearce said this not only dramatically increases affordability, but also accessibility.

“We want everyone in the world to have access to cost-effective medical care and this is a step on the road to achieving that,” Pearce said. “And if we help those who are financially less fortunate to acquire better medical equipment, we will also be making better medical tools for ourselves at lower cost, so really, everyone wins.”

Worldwide availability

Nine of the World Bank’s priorities for cost-effective surgical procedures that should be universally available are orthopedic procedures. Examples include treatment of fractures, placement of external fixator/use of traction, escharotomy/fasciotomy, trauma-related amputations, repair of clubfoot deformity, drainage of septic arthritis and debridement of osteomyelitis.

The open source Surgical Fracture Table can help surgeons perform a wide range of orthopedic procedures as well as general surgical procedures, gynecological procedures, and childbirths. It uses materials that are widely available around the world, and the specialized components required are easily 3D printed.

“Open-source” refers to licensing a publicly available design that anyone can modify, use, and share.

“Designs can be shared digitally and replicated with digital manufacturing like 3D printing anywhere in the world. We’re just at the start of a decentralized manufacturing revolution,” Pearce said.

“Most things you have in your home these days, from toys to kitchen gadgets, already have CAD (computer-aided design) models available for free that you can download and reproduce with the right tools. can make the economic case for 3D printing your own toys and gadgets, but this study takes it several notches, to pave the way for high-value medical tools.”

Health care crisis

Partly because of the unaffordability of surgical tables, surgeries in many places are limited. Healthcare workers don’t always have the help and technology to perform even simple procedures. A fracture table helps position the patient during surgery, saving healthcare workers from having to hold the patient in position while a procedure is in progress. These surgical tables offered at low cost will help you. And the best part about their open source is that they can be improved and built even more profitably. In fact, it is hope.

“Medical technology is absurdly expensive. One way we can help reduce costs is by allowing all manufacturers to build them, sell them directly, and incorporate some of the innovations, like using the 3D-printed radiolucent parts we’ve made in their own designs,” Pearce said. “This is by no means the final fracture table. I’m sure any decent engineer could look at it and improve it a bit and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do – be a point starting point that other people can build on.”

Ideally, this table design is useful to hospitals that might otherwise not be able to afford it. And because the table design is freely available, the table can be built, used and repaired on site. As surgeons and other healthcare workers find a need for additional accessories and modifications, they can add to the functionality of the design, either by designing a modification themselves or by describing what they would love to see into the design and have others contribute to those designs.

“We all get superior gear that way,” Pearce said.

The open source fracture table can be adjusted from 90 to 116 cm in height and tilted +/-15 degrees. The leg height ranges from 31 to 117 cm, the armrests and footrest both have a range of 180 degrees, the foot pull has a range of 54 cm, and the legs can be adjusted from 55 to 120 degrees. Geometrically flexible to allow for a wide range of common surgeries, the open source surgical table has a weight capacity of over 130 kg, is radiolucent (permeable to x-rays) in surgical areas, and is completely modular and scalable.

The table is mechanically adjustable and therefore does not require electricity, however, surgical staff will need to be trained in how to make any necessary adjustments during surgery.


Making the difference with open source scientific equipment


More information:
JK Bow et al, Open Source Surgical Fracture Table for Digitally Distributed Manufacturing, PLOS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0270328

Provided by University of Western Ontario


Quote: Open-source technology enables 3D-printed surgical table (July 16, 2022) Retrieved July 16, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-07-open-source-tech-enables-3d-printed- surgical. html

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