Hopkins physician creates 3-D printed hands for pediatric patients

Dr. Albert Chi

As the med tech industry addresses a growing need for devices geared toward children, a Baltimore, MD-based physician is creating 3-D printed hands developed specifically for pediatric patients.

Johns Hopkins trauma surgeon Albert Chi created custom hands using a low-cost 3-D printer, producing a device that is more child-friendly and affordable than a typical prosthetic, the Baltimore Sun reports. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that four in 10,000 children are born with some form of congenital hand loss, and insurance does not always cover pediatric prosthetics, costing patients and their families up to $40,000.

Chi produced the prosthetic hands for less than $20, and is working with nonprofit e-NABLE to distribute the devices at a much lower cost. Children can put on the prosthetic themselves and easily manipulate it with palm muscles, providing a more wearer-friendly model than traditional devices which typically cover the child's entire forearm, Quinn Cassidy, the mother of one of Chi's patients, told the Sun.

The innovation comes at a critical moment, as federal regulators and devicemakers are pushing for the development of next-generation devices created for pediatric populations. Last year, the FDA handed out $3.5 million in grants to 7 research consortia in September 2013 to spur the creation of pediatric-friendly devices. The industry took note, and companies like DexCom ($DXCM) and Minnesota-based Smiths Medical are rolling out new products with pediatric populations in mind. Earlier this year, Smiths added tracheostomy tubes for newborns and pediatric patients to its product line, and in February, DexCom won FDA approval for a pediatric version of its G4 Platinum continuous glucose monitor for toddlers.

Meanwhile, smaller operations and researchers are delving into 3-D printing as a viable therapeutic solution. In August, Chinese physicians successfully implanted the first 3-D printed vertebrae in a young patient, replacing a section of cancerous vertebrae with a 3-D printed piece created from titanium powder. Last month, British startup Andiamo launched a crowdfunding effort to develop 3-D printed orthotic devices for disabled children. The company plans to use funds to reduce wait time for pediatric orthotics and test its products in patients to attract future investment.

- read the Baltimore Sun article

Special Report: 3-D printing grows to scale within industry

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