Plastic bones could save the NHS thousands of pounds

By Eleanor Bradford
BBC Scotland Health Correspondent

media captionPlastic bones could save the NHS thousands of pounds

A trainee surgeon and self-confessed 'technology geek' has found a way to save the NHS thousands of pounds by making cheap anatomical models.

Mark Frame realised he could help the NHS cut costs by using freely available software programmes and the internet to create models of bones.

A company in the Netherlands transforms 3D CT scan images into plastic models.

The bones are used before complex operations to give surgeons a clearer idea of what to expect.

The first model of a child's forearm cost £77, and arrived by post in a week.

Surgical models don't come cheap. They're usually made by specialist manufacturers who charge hundreds - even thousands - of pounds and who require measurements months in advance, causing delays to the surgery.

Now the models can be produced so cheaply that fellow surgeons at hospitals in the West of Scotland now ask Mark to help them order models more often, preventing unexpected problems during surgery.

image captionMyra Hair, 79, recently benefited from his money-saving idea

Myra Hair, 79, recently benefited from his money-saving idea.

Mark made the model of Mrs Hair's pelvis in advance of difficult surgery to repair her hip. It was one of the most complex operations his colleagues had performed for twenty years.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Aman Khan carried out Mrs Hair's hip replacement.

He said: "A model used to cost more or less the same as the surgery itself and therefore it often wasn't an option. We couldn't justify that kind of cost for a procedure which is already very expensive."

Mrs Hair has been making a good recovery and was impressed with Mark's money-saving scheme.

She said: "I was amazed. Absolutely amazed. And I'm getting on fine. I've had virtually no pain since the operation."

Mark has written a guide so that other surgeons can make their own bones which is being considered for publication by the World Journal of Science and Technology. He's also contactable via twitter: @3Dbones

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