3D Printed Cast With Ultrasound Emitter Promises Faster Healing Times


Almost a year ago, [Jake Evill] broke his hand stopping a fight between his friend and another person. And over the next few weeks he realized how archaic  plaster casts really are — clunky, smelly, itchy — not exactly conducive to healing, other than by keeping your arm completely immobilized. That’s when he came up with the Cortex Cast — a 3D printed exoskeleton cast that provides support, allows your arm to breath, and can even get wet!

Fast forward to today, and another designer is playing with 3D printed casts — but ones that could potentially speed up the healing time! Turkish designer [Deniz Karasahin] heard about a system called the Exogen, which is a low-intensity ultrasound system which can help speed up bone repair, sometimes up to 38% faster. The problem? It doesn’t really work well with regular casts, because the transducer needs to touch the skin — the solution? A 3D printed cast of course!

You see, the ultrasound tech has been around for over 20 years, but has never really seen mainstream use because the difficulties in actually using it, until perhaps now.

Better yet, they’re also hoping to launch trials in the US soon — 3D printers are only good for trinkets and doodads? Pfft.

[Thanks William!]

44 thoughts on “3D Printed Cast With Ultrasound Emitter Promises Faster Healing Times

  1. While you’re sitting or laying around in pain, waiting for your busted limb to be 3D scanned and the plastic cast to be 3D printed – a low temperature thermoplastic one could be molded right on your limb in a few minutes.

    LTT is a sheet of plastic, cuttable with tin snips, that softens in hot water. It can also be pressed together to make bonds so that features like attachment points for traction devices can be added. Fitting one of those ultrasound devices would be as simple as heating and pressing in place a few chunks of the plastic.

    The material is made in solid and perforated sheets so it can be breathable.

    LTT isn’t cheap but I bet it costs less than this 3D printed one.

    1. …Morphine?

      When I fractured my arm – it only actually hurt when I moved it. So, the wait isn’t the biggest problem. Compared to a sheet of moulded plastic (A less bulky version of the current system), the design above allows you to stay clean, sanitary and still go swimming. Much less unpleasant, better for your skin and lets you exercise more.

      1. I wonder if a thin insulating material could be wrapped around the arm and then have the printer print onto that. Bonus points if you can make the material water soluble.

    1. How does a plaster cast differ in that regard?
      Given the job of making a cast I wouldn’t 3d print by layers as the standard printers do, Just extrude 5 mm or so filament and make each of the ribs in one pass, total time to cast would be measured in minutes, and you don’t need to worry about it overheating when it cures and burning the patient. For added nifty add some glass fibres to the filament so you get a nice strong cast.

  2. As a doctor i would need some verified proof of their claim of 38% faster healing which reeks of pseudo statistics. Not really seeing the benefits of this vs. a normal cast which obviously is cheaper to produce (hospitals do have a budget you know) and unsure where they get their claims of improved healing which appear pulled out of air. No offense.

    Does it look cool and futuristic? sure. But not seeing how exactly this is better persay than an ordinary cast. But it makes a cool cover story for say wired or any other tech journal.

    Until I see some substantiated studies that this significantly is better than a normal cast I’ll file this as gimmicky and move on.

    1. You see absolutely no value in it being breathable or waterproof?

      Not to mention the fancy leopard print tan lines one would sport after wearing such a device.

      1. well yeah thats obvious given the amount of holes and that its plastic. Still skeptical of their dubious claims of this being better than a normal cast considering no clinical trials have been made yet. They claim potential improvements that haven’t been tested. fully where did they get that 38% estimate?

        Sorry but unless this shows a real measurable difference in improvement over normal casts cost vs benefit analysis i’ll remain skeptical and look pass the gee whiz it looks cool and its plastic factor

        1. There have been clinical trials. They’re posted on the Exogen website with links to Pubmed. While their legitimacy might be questioned since they’re funded at least in part by the company, you certainly can’t claim that there have been no clinical trials at all.

          1. Exactly. Ultrasound is presumably effective here (FDA approved in the US, other approvals elsewhere), though I expect only in certain cases. The innovation is the possibility of embedding the ultrasound transducer in the customized 3D-printed splint (call it a cast if you must). The goal being a better mechanical connection between transducer and skin while allowing for inflammation.

    2. I believe the claims were made against the Exogen device that the case allows use of, and not so much the cast itself. I’m not a doctor, and I certainly haven’t read any of the material I’m going to link, but looking at the Exogen website it looks as though there have been a number of clinical studies and other papers published that support the claims:

      Claims: http://www.exogen.com/physicians/indications-and-effectiveness/
      Clinical Studies: http://www.exogen.com/physicians/articles/
      References: http://www.exogen.com/references/

    3. As a doctor, I would agree.

      This made me laugh: “clunky, smelly, itchy — not exactly conducive to healing, other than by keeping your arm completely immobilized”

      Um… then maybe they don’t understand tissue healing. “other than keeping your arm immobilized”. Ha! That’s the whole point! Off the cuff, that sounds very much amateur. Those initial adjectives are merely unpleasant, do nothing to hinder bone healing, and are good for marketing. Besides, which of you here are willing to shell out another $500 (or whatever) for a cool looking cast, and then add an hour (hour?) wait time to your visit. This doesn’t work “IRL”.

      And regarding ultrasound, I’ve not read any compelling data regarding this. Feel free to prove me wrong.

      1. It may not help with the healing of the bone, but could it be beneficial for patients that required surgery to reattach the bone (such as I did on my ankle last year) where better access could enable therapies to reduce scar tissue in the future?

    4. I have had a lot of injeries in my life time, 11 full knee reconstructions, broken tib and fib multiple times, broke my femur once, wrists, thumbs a few times. I guess what im trying to get at is if you have ever had to ware a cast you know they are not waterproof, they smell, and the itch. Even if the healing time is the same, this style of cast is something i would have dreamed of. Yes we understand hospitals have budgets and I also know how much medical suplies cost, they are way over priced, and generaly poor quality. 3D printers are becoming more and more inexpensive every day. I guess if you told them it’s for a hospital they would jack the price up 300%. Hopefully this becomes a reality and not just a concept because having a standard cast is the worst thing ever.

    1. “fast time” is a perfectly cromulent term. Just as Amy Heckerling who directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High. What? We weren’t discussing exciting or shocking activities?

  3. It’s sad to know how much ancient knowledge has been lost over the years. Ancient Egyptians used sound in special chambers as a diagnostic tool. Auditory and ultrasound resonance were capable of identifying physical deficiencies and ailments.

    I bet if we just stopped to try it out, we could reproduce the same processes. We just need more people who think in sound rather than in imagery.

    1. I asked an ancient Egyptian about this once. He said it was a scam physicians used to bilk money from the royal family. Each diagnosis ended with a need to remove and burn specific organs. Since the patients knew they would need them in the afterlife, they always declined further treatment.

  4. I see less value in the ultrasonic thingie and more value in the “cast”.

    In my youth, broken bones didn’t stop my athletics (as they do now), it was always that damn cast. A lighter, waterproof, breathable cast would’ve allowed me to continue my athletics instead of near stopping it entirely.

  5. Maybe i read it too wrong/quickly will look at it more in depth later. Still something seems off in the way this is being promoted as if they did real independent tests and with that claim. Kinda reeks of pseudoscientific claims or maybe i’m just apprehensive Who knows in any case again with look into it more later.

    1. I still feel like you haven’t really grasped the fact that the cast and the ultrasonic stuff are independent. It’s not like magnetic bracelets where removing the magnets leaves you with nothing of interest. A lightweight cast that doesn’t fall apart when it gets wet and can be removed without destroying it is pretty significant deal, even if it might need some tweaks to the design to be truly practical.

      I think the idea of extruding the “threads” rather than building them up in layers is a good one.

    1. bas relief

      i mean, if we’re gonna be grammar nazis, I might as well jump in…

      the cast idea is really one of the better 3d printing ideas I’ve seen so far.

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