3D-printed cast promotes bone growth and healing

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

3D-printed cast
The Osteoid is cool enough to wear as an accessory.

Broken bones won’t need smelly plaster casts for much longer, because there’s a new 3D-printed cast that will nurse their fractured parts back to health. Turkish student Deniz Karasahin has created the Osteoid medical cast, an award-winning lightweight design that uses ultrasound (sounds too high-pitched for humans to hear) in order to heal bones sooner than usual.

Traditional casts usually use a ton plaster to make sure the fracture site is well protected, but this results in a big, bulky mess that’s awkward to carry around. Since they can’t be exposed to water and are sealed off pretty tightly, sweat accumulates in the stinky, itchy cast. The Osteoid, however, features a lightweight material in a well-ventilated design that’s water-friendly, so a wearer won’t have to worry about putrid and offensive odors from soggy old plaster.

Then, since the ultrasound promotes bone growth, the 3D-printed cast will be off sooner rather than later. See, Osteoid comes with a device which uses low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) to heal fractures. Studies have shown the sound waves increase the intake of calcium – a necessary element for strong healthy bones – and stimulates bones to grow more abundantly. All a person has to do is place the LIPUS-enabled device on the skin directly over the fracture for 20 minutes a day. This simple action reduces healing time by almost 40% and increases the healing rate by around 80% for fractures that refuse to mend.

The cast comes in multiple colors and looks so cool you might want to wear one just for the heck of it! However, there’s no word yet for when the 3D cast will become available for widespread medical use, if at all. Other designs, like the Cortex cast developed by New Zealand student Jake Evill, are also taking advantage of lightweight 3D-printed technology to make bone repair as painless and quick as possible.

Images courtesy of A Design Award.