Lugging around a heavy plaster cast for days or weeks can seem worse than breaking the bone. But that could all be changing, thanks to (you guessed it) 3-D printing technology.
Turkish designer Deniz Karasahin has created a lightweight Osteoid cast that mimics the geometry of spongy bone tissue. The futuristic-looking Osteoid (“resembling bone”) is honeycombed with ventilation holes that prevent the itches and odors associated with traditional casts. More important, the vents enable the use of low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) probes, which stimulate bone growth and can significantly reduce healing time, Karasahin says.
The benefits of LIPUS probes have long been known, but they require direct contact with the skin, making their use almost impossible under plaster casts. The Osteoid, now undergoing human trials, employs medical imaging to custom fit each cast. Karasahin, who says he has never experienced a broken bone, spent a lot of time wearing the new cast during the design phases. “It’s a strange experience at first,” he says, “because it fits so perfectly. After some getting used to, it felt like part of me.”
Because the cast is made of plastic, there is no problem with getting it wet—a major no-no for plaster casts—making bathing less of a hassle. And although friends and family may miss getting to sign their names on the cast, that is something cast wearers themselves would be willing to forego.
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