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Thiruvananthapuram: South India’s inherent strengths in medicare, combined recently with its notable expertise in technology, particularly in 3D printing of medical implants, is drawing increasing numbers of patients from North Africa and the Gulf to south India.

Medical and industry players in Karnataka and Kerala told Gulf News that the annual patient numbers visiting south Indian states from African countries alone ran into tens of thousands annually, underlining south India’s emergence as a medical hub.

Word of mouth

Medical industry players say that the region is now getting increasing numbers of patients owing to the word of mouth publicity by patients who have undergone treatment in the southern Indian states.

The region is being preferred for expertise in niche medical interventions and reasonable costs, they say.

From Sudan for a hip implant

In the latest such case, Ahmed Adam Abugibba Osman, a 75-year-old lawyer from Khartoum, Sudan has undergone a hip implant surgery with part of his incapacitated hip replaced with a 3D-printed hip. Osman had been practically bed-ridden for the past 10 years.

The implant brought to the fore south India’s twin competencies – medical care and technological edge. Osman’s surgery was done at the Manipal Hospitals, Whitefield, which alone receives nearly 1,000 patients from African nations, up from about 800 patients last year. The 3D-printed hip was made by Bengaluru-based Supercraft3D, which specialises in 3D printing for the medical sector.

 Ahmed Adam Abugibba Osman INdia surgery hip
Ahmed Adam Abugibba Osman Image Credit: Supplied

The doctors who led the 12-hour surgery, Karan Kukreja and Srimanth B.S. told Gulf news that Osman could walk with minimal support during the post-operative period itself.

Tech angle

South India’s forte in medical services is closely linked to its leadership on the tech front.

Maltesh Somasekharappa, founder-CEO of Supercraft3D that made the customised 3D-printed titanium prosthesis for Osman told Gulf News that “the close collaboration between doctors and 3D printing experts was the pivotal aspect in the successful implant for the patient”.

A few years ago, the VPS Lakeshore Hospital in Kochi, Kerala had also done a 3D hip implant on a 60-year-old woman patient from the state.

Also in Karnataka, the Hastha Centre for Congenital Hand Differences established under the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, specialises in artificial limbs.

In Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh the think3D company prints medical devices, and in the latest development, Chennai-based Apollo Hospitals has tied up with Anatomiz3D to establish hospital 3D printing labs.

These labs make 3D printed implants that enable doctors to visualise and print implants for complicated cases.

Reasonable costs, good air connectivity

3D printing of prostheses has further cut medical costs and time involved in treatment, adding to the cost-effectiveness of medical services in south India, according to medical industry players.

Supercraft3D supplies 3D-printed prostheses worldwide, particularly in the Asian and Middle East markets. Somasekharappa said there was particularly strong demand for cranial implants in the Middle East and for jawbone implants in Asia where jaw and oral cancers are high.

Manipal Hospitals official Srinath K Menon said the good air connectivity from North Africa to Dubai and onward to south Indian cities also played a role in the increasing numbers of patients coming from those regions to south India.