[Image: Dr. Tarek Loubani via Twitter]

Dr. Tarek Loubani spent some time working in hospitals in the Gaza Strip during the worst of the chaos and violence that is unfortunately still going on there. Due to a long-standing blockade, medical supplies were scarce in the region – so scarce that doctors could often not find a stethoscope when they needed one. So Dr. Loubani came up with his own solution – he 3D printed a stethoscope, for about 30 cents.

The stethoscope, which, when tested, showed itself to perform just as well as or better than even the most high-end devices, was created as part of the Glia Free Medical Hardware Project, which allows medical professionals to create and share medical supplies under an open source platform. The goal is for professionals in areas with limited access to medical supplies to be able to create their own, inexpensively, on-site and as-needed.

Dr. Loubani is now an associate professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, associate scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute and an emergency room physician at London Health Sciences Centre. His 3D printed, open source stethoscope has just been clinically validated, the results published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

“As far as we know this is the first open-source medical device that has been clinically validated and is widely available,” said Dr. Loubani.

The Glia stethoscope, as it’s called, can be 3D printed in under three hours and for under $3. It can be easily made by anyone with a 3D printer and a spool of ABS filament.

“Use of the open source approach in every aspect of this project contributes powerfully to the body of medical device research,” said Gabriella Coleman, PhD, scholar of technology and open source software. “This research gives a guide for others to create medical-grade open access devices that can reduce costs and ultimately save lives.”

The Glia stethoscope is currently being used in Gaza, as well as undergoing clinical trials at London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario. Places like the London Health Sciences Centre are in less need of stethoscopes than places like Gaza, as they rely more on ultrasound, CT and other technologies. But in places without access to those technologies, a stethoscope is an extremely valuable piece of equipment.

“Stethoscope utility goes up as other resources go down,” Dr. Loubani said. “In London, if someone gets shot, I can use an ultrasound to look inside and see if there is a life-threatening air pocket called a pneumothorax. In Gaza, ultrasounds are not available in emergency departments, or are dilapidated, so the stethoscope becomes an inexpensive tool that allows us to make life-saving decisions.”

War, unfortunately, is not going away anytime soon, but having more medical supplies in war-torn regions can help to ensure that there are fewer casualties. The goal now is to continue expanding the Glia database and allowing medical professionals to have access to a wider range of supplies for 3D printing.

The article “Validation of an effective, low cost, Free/open access 3D-printed stethoscope” can be accessed here. Authors include Alexander Pavlovsky, Jennifer Glauche, Spencer Chambers, Mahmoud Al-Alawi, Kliment Yanev and Tarek Loubani.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source/Images unless otherwise noted: University of Western Ontario]

 

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