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VA Medical Center Seeks FDA Approval for 3D Printing

Ralph H. Johnson’s VA Medical Center in Charleston, North Carolina, is looking for approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration for printing 3D hearing aids. The center believes that it can produce thousands of medical devices every year using 17 3D printers if it receives approval. The hospital is also the first Veteran Affairs hospital in the US to receive compassionate use approval from the FDA for 3D printed medical devices.

VA Medical Center hopes to start distributing more medical devices after receiving the FDA approval. It will be providing hearing aids alone and will potentially be able to help some 8000 veterans with hearing impairments. Even 3D-printed earplugs can help the soldiers surrounded by loud weaponry and machinery.

VA Medical Center innovation center started printing face shields and masts at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was the time when medical supplies were in high demand. Nikki Beitenman, Biomedical Engineer at the center, said, “The first thing we started printing was face shields because there was a shortage across the nation. When we initially tried to order them from a supplier, we were quoted a price of $4 per face shield. We can make them in-house for about 85 cents.”

Apart from the face shields, it also uses technology to produce attachable screens for optometry equipment used in examinations, education models for staff training, and swabs for Covid-19 tests. The ventilator splitters, patient-specific assistive devices, wheelchair accessories, etc., are also additively manufactured using the center’s 17 3D printers.

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