An Italian doctor is taking on orthopedic scoliosis with the help of a Delta WASP 4070 3D printer and a holistic approach that includes 3D scanning and modeling software.
In 2014, renowned scoliosis specialist Lelio Leoncini began to experiment with the Delta WASP 4070 to produce orthopedic corsets. Now, the former Medical Director of Rionera in Vulture-based Medical Center Sanatrix, has joined WASPmedical on a full-time basis. Leoncini’s mission is simple: he wants to develop an affordable, comfortable and reliable treatment for scoliosis sufferers around the world and he believes that 3D printing could be the key.
The Italian doctor, a specialist in physical therapy and physical medicine, has already produced a series of different ‘weaves’ for 3D printed corsets that provide support for scoliosis sufferers. He has also produced tailored insoles, which can help balance the sufferer’s body and combat the onset of advanced scoliosis.
The most common form of scoliosis is a spinal curvature that is often progressive and can leave the sufferer permanently disabled. This crippling condition starts as a slight curve in the spinal column. Over time the condition gets worse and the curvature can become so severe that the bones in the spine can displace internal organs and cause a variety of life-threatening complications. It can also cause excruciating pain in the arms and legs as the bones put pressure on the nerves.
In the US alone, more than 600,000 people seek treatment every year for scoliosis and many more cases go undetected. Once a doctor has identified the condition, the treatment is often expensive and producing bespoke corsets is an arduous task that puts a strain on health services around the world.
That means some people simply don’t get the support they need and the treatment is always reactive and distinctly low-tech. The current fitting process involves taking a full-body plaster cast, which is time consuming and expensive. It’s also a clumsy, low-tech solution that often means the final corset is not a perfect fit.
Leoncini believes that a holistic approach with the help of 3D scanners and modeling software means he can predict the disease’s progression and take preventative steps that will give the patient a better quality of life. At the same time, he can slash the cost of the treatment and make the corsets more comfortable, as well as more effective.
“It is fundamental to overtake the plaster cast technique, and get a precise body-model realized with scanner,” he said. “This allows us to shape the corset in a very precise way. You can amend and revise of the model, which would be impossible using the traditional plaster cast.”
Leoncini is perfecting a model that will help him predict the onset of the disease with a virtual program that will help him develop better corsets to restrict the problem areas and provide additional support where required. This means that the corset should do a better job, it should be more effective at preventing the disease’s progression and the patient won’t need constant replacements. It is also cheaper to make in the first place.
“The production costs decrease considerably and you speed up production, so a technician can hand-make a couple of corsets a day,” said Leoncini. “Using 3D printing you can double the quantity and produce better quality.”
The Italian doctor is determined to test and improve every part of the 3D printed corset. That includes testing different filaments before settling on TreeDFilaments’ Shogun. This works much like PLA, but it can be thermoset more than once and that means the doctors and specialists can make last-minute alterations to the corset when they fit it to the patient.
Leoncini is also working with different weaves to ensure that he has the best combination of strength, support and comfort. He also wants to ensure they can wear the support constantly, too, as many sufferers simply cannot wear their brace all the time and that takes its own toll.
In recent months, he has hit upon the Cheneau Model, which is a punched weave that can be used in unstressed parts of the corset. The Italian has also produced an exoskeletal corset, which fits to the underarm and pelvic regions to provide additional support for those with collapsed vertebrae, or to provide support and help a patient get back on their feet after surgery. He has also created a rigid chair support to help give disabled scoliosis sufferers the best possible quality of life.
He has also developed a line of lightweight wrist supports that help alleviate the pressure on the nerves and provide lightweight, comfortable and stylish supports for patients with problems in their extremities.
Leoncini is hoping to change the way the medical profession looks at scoliosis and his custom approach to each case is tailor-made for the world of 3D printing. It’s fascinating to see how one determined doctor can make such radical strides with the support of WASP 3D and we look forward to hearing more about his determined fight against a crippling condition.