The Cast of the Future: Will it Be Right for You?

Houston podiatrist treats foot and ankle fracturesSo you’ve broken a bone in your foot or ankle. What comes next—a big, heavy plaster cast—is unlikely to excite you, unless of course you’re in the third grade and the prospect of all your friends signing that cast balances out the discomfort of your skin not seeing the light of day for the next few weeks.

Jake Evell, a media design graduate of Victoria University in New Zealand, found himself well beyond the third grade and not thrilled by traditional casting options. He decided to come up with a different type of cast, one that could employ three dimensional printing technology to overcome the traditional unpleasantness that accompanies wearing a cast—itchiness, general discomfort and, of course, the pale skin that awaits you when the cast is finally removed. Enter his solution: the Cortex exo-skeletal cast. 

The concept is simple but brilliant—utilizing X-ray technology in conjunction with 3D printing and scanning, the Cortex cast gives patients a fully-ventilated structure that still allows broken bones to heal (see the picture alongside this posting if you can’t quite visualize the end product.) The basic idea is that scans are used to determine the “trauma zone,” or exact site of the fracture. Once that point has been discovered, the information is entered into a software system that creates an optimized bespoke structure which provides denser support at the site of the fracture, and more light-weight options further away from the injury.

Once that structure is designed online, it would be 3D printed, providing an ultra-light and recyclable cast. The best part of all is that it can even be worn in the shower, meaning no more plastic bags wrapped awkwardly around broken limbs. There is a downside—patients would have to wait several hours for the Cortex cast to be designed and printed, whereas a traditional cast would be ready in just a few minutes. Still, the advantages of this type of cast will likely give patients good reason to wait—except for those kids who want more surface area to collect their classmates’ signatures.

For now, this design is only in the conceptual stage, but hopefully it will be a readily available option in the near future. Your Houston podiatrist, Dr. Andrew Schneider, is always on top of the latest developments in the treatment of foot fractures or other foot conditions, so schedule an appointment with Tanglewood Foot Specialists for cutting edge solutions to your foot pain. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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