A 3D-printed leg brace to support patient with neuromuscular disease

March 17, 2023
6 min

As an orthotics and prosthetics professional, digitizing your process can benefit your clinic and your patients. The era of 3D scanning and 3D printing has gained market share over the past years as it is responding to different challenges with its multiple application possibilities. 

In this article, we will show how 3D printed orthotic leg braces can benefit your patients with a new kind of support that was not possible with traditional braces. 

Neuromuscular disease and the lack of functional braces

Neuromuscular disorders or spinal cord injuries can affect people in different ways: most of the time, they lose strength, and their body can quickly become tired, especially when walking. That’s why some patients choose to help their mobility using wheelchairs, before it is medically indicated. Using a wheelchair for too long can lead to conditions like bone density decrease, or muscle deterioration. 

This is why it was necessary to find a better solution to support people and help them live with their condition without degrading it. In this study, researchers created a 3D printed leg brace that serves as a mobility aid by taking some of the effort out of walking. This could help patients with compromised muscles in their legs to retain their mobility longer, increasing the quality of life and preventing some of the complications due to using a wheelchair. 

The creation of the 3D leg brace

The main challenge was to create a lightweight, mobile and strong leg-brace to support the user without getting tired. To do so, the brace was custom designed with a volunteer’s leg measurement using a CAD/CAM software and manufactured using a 3D printer. 

The design of the leg brace consists in aligning the complex anatomy of the knee joint that will reduce or prevent pain from the long-term brace use. 

The main frame structure features a hinge style joint to allow the user to open and close the brace around its leg. When designed, the leg-brace is sent to 3D printing and printed with PLA (polylactic acid) fiber.  

Once assembled, the leg-brace is given to the volunteer to test it. The brace functioned as intended, helping the user in contracting and extending the lower leg. Further studies are needed to collect more data and to quantify results relating to the user’s improvement in mobility using the brace. 

3D printing has become essential in the O&P industry

This study showed that a 3D modelled and printed leg brace could potentially reduce severe neuromuscular conditions, though, more studies are needed to prove this point. 

As seen in this article, the orthotics and prosthetics industry has enormous potential for innovation to help more and more people, thanks to its digitization.  

This is an excellent reason why you should start digitizing your process. TechMed 3D is keen to help you improve your process by offering the best solutions adapted to your practice.  

Do you need more information?  

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666964122000182

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