3D printing makes inroads into the Indian healthcare industry

Indian hospitals are increasingly deploying 3D printing technology for higher success rate in surgeries while cutting down surgery costs.

By Shraddha Singh
Aug. 15, 2016


"3D printing allows the selection of the best surgical plans. It also saves the operating time, reduces blood loss, and reduces anaesthesia time and speeds up recovery. This leads to an overall reduction in the cost of the operation," Firoza Kothari, co-founder and CTO of Anatomiz3D, a supplier of 3D printed models, says, elaborating on the potential of 3D printing in healthcare sector.

Mukesh Doshi, a prosthetics and orthotics specialist and owner of POCL Medical Solutions, has been providing 3D printed prosthetics to his patients for over a year now. According to him 3D printed hands are highly functional and cost effective. "The design is actually so simple that it works on strings which are attached to the wrist therefore giving us the biggest advantage of full movement of hands up to the fingers," he says, pointing out that they are extremely easy to maintain and affordable too. "A myoelectric hand with all finger movements costs around seven lakh rupees while the 3D printed hand costs only around twenty thousand."

3D printing is also making imaging technologies like echocardiography redundant. Garekar says that doctors have a hard time in interpreting the echocardiography images to understand the problems in the heart. The 3D printed models have made this task much easier. "We realised the importance of 3D Printing and its ability to answer questions that merely 2D scans could not," says Kothari.

 3D printed models are also used for treating complex fractures and face reconstruction surgeries among others. Think3D, another provider of 3D printing solutions, works with hospitals like MaxCure, Sunshine Hospitals, SRM Hospital and L V Prasad Eye Institute.

The use of 3D printed models have led to higher success rates in surgeries. Kappanayil feels that from the perspective of understanding the anatomy, 3D models have always been100 percent accurate.

Nonetheless, 3D printed models of body parts come with their own challenges as they largely depend on MRI/CT Scan. Therefore it is very important to have high quality scans to generate accurate anatomy for printing. Besides being costly, CT Scan also emits radiation, which could result in an improper model of a 3D printed body part. As the technology is relatively new, the software is very expensive and consequently there are very few players who provide these services across India.

As there is an expense associated with 3D printing hospitals are also finding it difficult to convince patients. Also, at this point in time insurance doesn't cover 3D printed models. Says Kothari, "Some practitioners who wish to utilize 3D printing are bound by the consent of the patient as the expenses have to be borne by the patient. The patient may or may not understand the importance of 3D printing for his/her case and may refuse the proposal as it is an additional cost."

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