BETHLEHEM, Pa.—The days of the plaster and fiberglass casts for immobilizing injured or broken limbs may soon be over. ActivArmor, a Colorado-based manufacturer of 3D printed casts, has developed a process that is said to replace many of the inconveniences of traditional casts with the benefits of customized, durable plastic casts.
ActivArmor is a custom-made device that form-fits the anatomy—hands, wrists, arms, and lower limbs. St. Luke’s University Health Network is the first healthcare organization in Pennsylvania to offer this innovative option.
Kristofer Matullo, M.D., St. Luke’s board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in disorders of the hand and wrist, introduced the ActivArmor product in the region in March. He said he is impressed with its construction and benefits for patients.
“This device is really going to improve patient comfort, convenience, and quality of life,” said the network’s chief of the division of hand surgery, in a release from St. Luke’s University Health Network. “It is lighter in weight, easier to maintain, and offers the wearer the convenience of being able to scratch an itch through the lattice-like openings in the cast.”
To make the cast, a 3D scan is made of the affected appendage, then the image is sent to ActivArmor using proprietary software. The printer creates two “clamshell-like” halves of the cast, which are then fitted onto the patient’s affected body part. It can be locked on like a cast or removed like a splint to allow swelling of an injured area to subside.
The ActivArmor product comes in a variety of attractive colors. Its lattice-like spaces allow wound care, treatment with advanced healing technologies, cleaning of the skin, or sanitizing the device to be done while the cast is being worn, according to the release.
The 3D printed cast can get wet, and wearing it doesn’t impinge on many activities of an active lifestyle, including sports. The plastic is recyclable and 100 percent biocompatible, said Megan Augustine, M.S., Network Director of St. Luke’s Simulation Center, who researched and spearheaded the introduction of ActivArmor to St. Luke’s orthopedics department. She called it “a perfect match for improving the overall quality of care for our patients here at St. Luke’s.” It will be available to orthopedic patients throughout the St. Luke’s network.