Jun 10, 2014

Scoliosis is a lateral or side-to-side curvature of the spine that develops in children and young adults during periods of growth. It initially appears in children during the prepubescent ages of 8-13, and is currently affecting nearly 7 million Americans, 90% of which are female.

There are many options for scoliosis treatment. One of them is spinal bracing which is effective in children and young adults who are still growing. Traditional braces take the shape of a rigid, restrictive torso shell extending from armpit to hip, exerting a strong, corrective counter-pressure against the ribs and hips. Children are required to wear such brace nearly full time for an average of 2-3 years until reaching skeletal maturity. But in reality, young patients often remove the brace often enough to render the treatment ineffective and resulting in eminent surgery.

So for Meredith, an exuberant 13-year-old scoliosis patient, the experience of spinal correction was bulky and inelegant. One company wants to change this.

3D Systems announced on Monday that it has successfully completed a pilot program for its new Bespoke Braces, a first of its kind, personalized, 3D printed brace for children and young adults with scoliosis.

In the Bespoke process, a prototype 'check-socket' brace is fitted to each patient, and, when considered correct, it is digitized to create a digital reference underlay. Once digital, the brace is further manipulated and adjusted as needed so each Bespoke brace is fitted to each specific patient. Then it is 3D printed using 3D Systems' selective laser sintering (SLS) technology in porous patterns that breathe easily, reducing weight, cost and discomfort, and which allow patients to give an aesthetic to their healing.

3DS's personalized medical device team working in collaboration with Dr. James Policy, MD of Stanford University and Robert Jensen, CPO, tested 22 patients at Children's Hospital of Oakland. Across the board, patients responded favourably to the enhanced aesthetics of the brace.

"[The new brace] has really changed how I view myself, and how other kids see me." Meredith said. "My good friends, who know that I have scoliosis, think my brace is cool. Everybody else doesn't even know that I'm wearing it because the design makes it invisible even under a shirt."

"All of our children wanted the Bespoke Brace," Dr. Policy said. "We had a small 3D printed scale model of the brace on my desk. Once the children saw this, they all wanted one. I've never seen children respond so positively to a brace. It was so cool that once they were fitted, many were showing the brace off to their friends."

"It will take data to convince the insurers and medical community the value of this technology, but common sense dictates that if the children like their braces and are more comfortable wearing the devices, we will see higher compliance and greater success." Dr. Policy added. "The early data from our pilot study appears to support this. The Bespoke Brace promises to be an important advancement for these children."

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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