3D-printing, which allows us to create everything from household objects to even 3D-printed human-hearts, has now been combined with ultrasound technology in an innovative new cast.
Exogen, a low-intensity ultrasound system, was first approved by the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) last year. Targeting fractures that traditionally take longer than nine months to heal, Exogen hopes to make the healing process a quicker and more satisfying experience for the patient.
Unfortunately, a traditional cast does not allow for an ultrasound device to reach a patient’s skin with ease. Invasive cutting of the cast can be done, but it leads to a degree of discomfort for the patient and swelling of their skin. However, industrial designer Denis Karasahin has set about to create a 3D-printed cast that allows the inclusion of an ultrasound port where devices such as Exogen can be attached.By using the Exogen system for 20-minutes a day from the comfort of their homes, patients can expect to speed healing by a remarkable 38%. In addition, NICE have also determined that the ultrasound application could fix long bone fractures that have failed to heal after the normal nine month period. This would save the patient a painful, and expensive, surgery.
While neither 3D-printed casts nor the Exogen process are new, Karasahin has combined them both in an ingenious way that could be a boon for patients who have suffered broken bones. It may take a while for his design to make it to patients though, as the cost of 3D-printing is still quite high in comparison to a traditional cast as prepared in a hospital. Add in the need to 3D scan your arm, and it’s doubtful we’ll see this in a healthcare system any time soon. With the costs of 3D printing quickly dropping though, you never just know what the future holds.