Doctor In Gaza Strip Invents Cheap, 3D-printed Stethoscope That Outperforms Modern Alternatives

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A team of doctors working in the Gaza Strip recently uploaded design plans for a 3D-printed stethoscope that can be made for just 30 cents and that it claims can outperform modern commercial alternatives, including the market-leading Littmann Cardiology III by 3M.  The medical team behind the design is working in battle-hardened Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip, where access to medical equipment is frequently limited due to embargos and ongoing fighting in the region. The World Health Organization cites the lack of medicine and medical equipment as the primary obstacle in providing adequate healthcare in the region.

To overcome these limitations, clinicians and engineers have come together to form the GLIA project, an online effort to design and distribute cheap, high-quality medical device plans that can be assembled with 3D-printed parts or materials available in the region. To date, the team has published plans for a 3D-printed otoscope, surgical tools, and a loom used to weave sterile gauze. Other projects are underway, including plans for a pulse oximetry device, and an ECG.

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The team pilots the devices within the Al-Shifa Hospital, and validates their designs through iterative design sessions and rigorous data analysis. Commenting on the new stethoscope, Tarek Loubani, MD and physician lead of the GLIA project, says it is “as good as any stethoscope out there in the world,’’ adding, "We have the data to prove it.” The team is now applying for medical device licensure for the stethoscope in Canada.

The gold standard for stethoscopes is the Littmann Cardiology III by 3M, a device that costs in the neighborhood of $150. Loubani suggests that with that amount of money, a hospital in an underserved region could buy a 3D printer good enough to establish a production environment where they could print and assemble stethoscopes indefinitely, adding a much needed element of self-sufficiency to an environment plagued by its lack of medical resources. "The goal here is self sufficiency, and so the plan for Gaza and other underserved areas is to have 3D printers there," Loubani says.


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