This 3D-printed cast could speed up healing, and it looks awesome
If you've ever had a broken limb, you know hard plaster casts really suck. They are bulky, uncomfortable, itchy and smelly, and they limit patient's exposure to water. They are very cheap, but definitely not cool.
What if a cast could be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing? 3D printed casts for fractured bones could replace the usual plaster or fibreglass ones in a recent project by Deniz Karasahin. Similar as the 3D printed Cortex cast created by Victoria University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill, Karasahin's cast is designed to be ventilated and washable, making it more comfortable and convenient than traditional casts.
But Karasahin takes his design one step further. The cast, called Osteoid Medical cast, is designed to improve the overall healing experience for broken or fractured limbs by focusing on the patient's comfort and the amount of time needed for the body to heal itself.
Last Tuesday, the Osteoid Medical cast won the A'Design Award in the 3D Printed Forms and Products Design category.
3D printing allows the designer to make custom fitted, durable 3D printed medical casts for individual's arm, and due to material properties the end products are slimmer, lighter, and environmentally friendly.
Its webbed design allows for better ventilation and when connected to a low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) bone stimulator system it also allows for probes to be placed directly on the skin over the injured area.
According to the project's page, when connected to such a LIPUS bone stimulator system, the Osteoid Medical cast will reduce the healing process up to 38% and increase the heal rate up to 80% in non-union fractures, where the bones are completely separated.
In order for the cast to perfectly fit to the patient's limb, the concept uses 3D scans of a patient with a fracture and generates a 3D model. Later on additional locking mechanism and algorithmically generated ventilation holes are added to the final C.A.D data along with LIPUS probe adapters. The data are then 3D printed with FDM from ABS, and the LIPUS bone stimulator system is produced in the same way with a 3D printer.
The project page says, Osteoid medical casts are made from two pieces which can be fixed together like a jigsaw puzzle. There is a central hole passes through the edges of these pieces where a flexible pin is inserted to tightly connect these pieces together. The LIPUS probes are attachable to the Osteoid medical cast. There is a thin layer of rubber fixed to the edges of the LIPUS adapters, this rubber layer helps these pieces to fit on the ventilation holes of the medical cast.
The cast is still in the design stages, but the idea is intriguing, considering how the medical world has embraced the use of 3D printers, it may not be too far off from becoming reality.