When Dr Tarek Loubani worked as an emergency room physician in Gaza the one thing the struck him among in the shortage of medical supplies in the war-stricken region was the lack of stethoscopes.
Loubani is associate professor at the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, associate scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute and an emergency room physician at London Health Sciences Centre.
Loubani returned to the university where he has led his team in developing a 3D printed stethoscope, an idea that was born while playing with a toy stethoscope and noticing that it worked quite well.
A stethoscope is an acoustic medical device that doctors use to listen to internal sounds, such as those produced in the lung and heart. As Loubani explains, stethoscopes may not be seen as vital for diagnosis and treatment in places in rich countries and cities where physicians rely on more sophisticated diagnostic techniques like ultrasounds and CT scans. But the stethoscope’s utility goes up as other resources go down.
Loubani and his team printed their stethoscope using commonly available recyclable plastic that is used to make garden chairs and Lego. Their idea is not just to make a cheap stethoscope but to create an open-source design for medical practitioners anywhere to access and make their own medical-grade stethoscopes.
The 3D-printed stethoscope has now been clinically validated in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, which shows that the device’s acoustic quality is the same as in a premium brand stethoscope.
Here is Loubani explaining how the device can be printed an assembled.