Article Text

Download PDFPDF
People with amputations in rural Sierra Leone: the impact of 3D-printed prostheses
  1. Melissa D van Gaalen1,2,
  2. Merel van der Stelt2,3,
  3. Jonathan H Vas Nunes2 and
  4. Lars Brouwers2,4
  1. 1Technical Medicine, Delft University of Technology Faculty of Mechanical Maritime and Materials Engineering, Delft, The Netherlands
  2. 2Masanga Medical Research Unit, Masanga Hospital, Masanga, Sierra Leone
  3. 3Radboud UMC 3D Lab, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  4. 4Trauma Surgery, Elisabeth-TweeSteden Ziekenhuis, Tilburg, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Melissa D van Gaalen; mvangaalen3{at}


We report the case of a man with a transhumeral amputation in a rural area of Sierra Leone. The patient had fractured his humerus during a football match. Due to lack of transportation and medical centres nearby, the patient was seen by a traditional healer. Although the traditional healer expected the fractured bone to heal within 3 days, the open fracture became infected. This finally resulted in a transhumeral amputation. The patient began to have a lack of self-confidence and felt excluded from society. He could not afford a conventionally fabricated prosthesis. Fourteen years later, the patient received a lightweight three-dimensional-printed arm prosthesis developed at the Masanga Hospital. The patient was very satisfied because the prosthesis met his criteria of aesthetics and functionality. His story highlights the socioeconomic hardship of being a person with an amputation in Sierra Leone and the need for affordable technological solutions.

  • trauma
  • accidents
  • injuries
  • rehabilitation medicine
  • disability
  • healthcare improvement and patient safety

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Twitter @Brouwers_3D

  • Contributors MDvG, MvdS, JHVN and LB were involved in conception and design of the study. MDvG was involved in acquisition of data. MDvG was involved in analysis and/or interpretation of data. MDvG was involved in drafting the manuscript. MDvG, MvdS, JHVN and LB were involved in revising the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. MDvG, MvdS, JHVN and LB were involved in approval of the version of the manuscript to be published.

  • Funding This study was funded by Delft University of Technology, Dutch Albert Schweitzer Fund (NASF) (2019-2-18), Ultimaker (Ultimaker BV, Geldermalsen) and Makerpoint (Makerpoint BV, Arnhem).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.