A market ripe for digital disruption in the 21st century
Guest Post by Diana Hall, President and CEO of ActivArmor
Fracture care has revolved around one solution for thousands of years: an application by wrapping wet material, like cotton, with plaster or fiberglass that hardens while drying – called “casting.” Throughout history, there have been limited innovations regarding the fabrication and application of this treatment. The stagnant evolution of fracture treatment results in unsatisfactory healing outcomes.
Today’s standard treatment requires layers of bandages combined with Plaster of Paris. The bandages are soaked in water and rolled over the appendage. Casts made using these materials take 36-72 hours to completely dry. It is uncommon for the patient to experience allergic reactions to these materials, but patients with neuropathy have a greater chance of skin problems with the cast. Soaking the bandages in too hot water could result in the patient experiencing a thermal burn because the Plaster of Paris creates a hypothermic reaction once mixed with water. Another downside to plaster casts is that the patient cannot wash the materials, which traps moisture, dirt, and bacteria against the skin throughout use. They also do not accommodate for swelling – which is common with acute injuries.
Another prevalent cast type seen today is a fiberglass cast, made of fiber-reinforced polymer and plastic matrix reinforced by fine glass. These casts are extremely strong and lightweight, up to three times stronger and ⅓ the weight compared to a plaster cast. However, they come with many of the same issues as the plaster cast. Fiberglass casts also cannot be washed, do not accommodate swelling, and will trap unsavory material next to the skin. These casts also require extreme care during removal as glass particles can become airborne and get into the eyes.
There are also other more serious complications that can occur during the casting process, besides those listed above. Many patients have experienced deep vein thrombosis in their predominantly while in lower limb casts. Soft tissue swelling is quite common at the point of fracture and compartment syndrome is the most common issue faced by patients with leg and forearm fractures alike. When pressure in a limb becomes too high, the patient can experience pain, swelling, numbness, and in severe cases tissue damage that could result in the loss of limb function or amputation. Swelling usually subsides within 48 hours, which may result in the displacement of a reduced fracture when the cast becomes too loose. Padding is then required to fill the excess room in the cast to prevent fracture displacement. Which then puts the user at a higher risk for pressure sores which occur if the plaster or padding is not applied correctly.
The skin can below a traditional cast can become macerated with trapped moisture and itchy with dirt and dead skin that builds up due to lack of washing. Patients often use a foreign body to scratch an itch, which can cause skin breakdown and infection. If a window is needed in the cast for an incision or sore, edema can occur if the window is not inserted back into the cast correctly as well as Venous Congestion and a blue discoloration on the surface of their skin. Even the removal of traditional casts is dangerous as a cast saw is needed, which can cause burns or injury to the patient’s limb. The standard method of care is flawed and the market is ripe for innovation.
ActivArmor is utilizing 3d printing to revolutionize the casting industry! The first step in receiving an ActivArmor cast is to scan the limb that needs to be immobilized using the ActivArmor app found in the Apple store. Then the custom cast will be built using that scan. The patient even gets to choose the color of their cast from 11 different options. Once the design is complete, the cast is printed from a biocompatible plastic material in house at a partnered ActivArmor manufacturing facility or clinic with a 3d printer. This ease of availability reduces the time it takes for the patient to receive their cast. Most insurance companies cover ActivArmor casts, including Medicaid and Medicare.
ActivArmor casts are waterproof and more hygienic than traditional casts because they allow patients to wash and sanitize their limbs without worrying about viral transmission. Since each cast is custom-designed, critical areas such as incisions, sores, or ulcers can be left open for treatment during the healing process. As well as can be immediately bivalved to prevent edema and compartment syndrome. The patented design is breathable, so water doesn’t get trapped against the, Malunions are reduced because the cast is easily adjustable, and any movements under the skin are easily observable.
Using this cast option also saves time, since in contrast to traditional casts which usually require multiple casts throughout the healing process, an ActivArmor cast is reusable, adjustable, and convertible from a cast to a splint through the patient’s healing phases. There are 14 different types of casts that ActivArmor can produce, that range from long-arm devices that can be converted into wrist cockups, walking boots, and AFOs. All of these casts can be converted into splints simply by changing the closure type.
ActivArmor has also created a trauma split that is usable at the onset of injury and until the patient receives their custom device. Insta-Armor is free to any patient receiving an ActivArmor cast and has the same benefits as the standard ActivArmor cast. The Insta-Armor can immobilize all shapes and sizes of arms and is easily applied.
Utilizing the emergence of new technologies, ActivArmor provides a higher standard of fracture care. Providers and patients can all benefit from the application of 3d printing in this field.
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