General Newsworthy Prosthetics

Prosthetics: 3D Printed vs Task Designed

The Shriners Hospitals have long been known for Prosthetics.  Each hospital in the system has expertise for both upper and lower extremity prosthetics.  As I have mentioned in previous blog POSTS, there is a great deal of new, exciting progress in the field.  We continue to work here at the Shriners Hospital in St Louis and St Louis Childrens Hospitals together with Washington University on 3D printed prosthetics.  Two recent news clips highlight these efforts:

St Louis Today Link

Outlook Magazine

However, it is important to remember that not all prosthetics need to be high tech to be very effective.  We learned from Dr Michelle James and a group of Shriners surgeons (as seen HERE in this great article from 2006) that many kids abandon their upper extremity prosthetic as they may not be helpful for quality of life or function.  As I have previously discussed, this has led to a change in philosophy in the time to best fitting of the prosthetic.  Now we often wait until a child has a specific need or request.

Here is one great, very specialized example of a specific request: a task- designed prosthetic.  This child has bilateral cleft hand with a single digit on both sides.  He functions really, really well using both hands together for many activities.  But one task that was important to him and his family- but was a challenge- was fishing.  Therefore, a special prosthetic was designed which helps him accomplish this goal.  He is very pleased with the prosthetic.

Prosthetic specially designed for fishing!

Charles A. Goldfarb, MD

My Bio at Washington University


  1. First off, I would like to thank you for all the information you provide on your blog . I find it very informative!

    I especially liked this post on 3D printing of prosthetic for children. In the news, I have seen a lot about the 3D printing of actual bone and soft tissues. Just curious about your thoughts on this emerging area and it's possibilities for children with congenital hand and arm differences? Thank you!

  2. Rachael, thanks for your comments. We have made rapid advances in 3D printing for different body areas including, recently, a printing of a titanium portion of the spinal column. However, to my knowledge, at this point, the printing has been of purely structural elements of the body. Unfortunately, we are still a long way from the printing of functional body parts (such as a hand or a portion of a hand).

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