Idiopathic scoliosis is defined as a lateral or rotational curvature of the spine that initially appears in children during the prepubescent ages of 8 to 13. It currently affects nearly 7 million Americans, 90 percent of whom are female. Most cases of scoloiosis are mild, however, an especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly. If the bones are still growing or if the condition is moderate, the physician may recommend that a brace be worn.

Fig. 1 – The personalized Bespoke Brace is 3D-printed in a porous design that is breathable, lightweight, and unique to each patient.
Traditional braces form a rigid, restrictive torso shell extending from armpit to hip, exerting a strong, corrective counter-pressure against the ribs and hips. If traditional bracing does not help, then full spinal fusion surgery may be necessary, where metal rods are affixed alongside the spinal column. Children are required to wear a traditional brace nearly full time for an average of two to three years until reaching skeletal maturity.

While most braces are pre-manufactured and then fitted to the patient, a recent pilot program was just completed of a new type of brace that’s a personalized, 3D-printed brace.

How It Works

First, a prototype “check-socket” brace is fitted to each patient, and then digitized to create a digital reference underlay. Once digital, the brace is further manipulated and adjusted as needed, and 3D printed using selective laser sintering technology for comfort, flexibility, and durability. (See Figure 1)

Created by 3D Systems, Rock Hill, SC, a leading provider of 3D printing centric design-to-manufacturing solutions, their personalized medical device team is working in collaboration with James Policy, MD, Stanford University, and Robert Jensen, CPO, an orthotist. The group tested the device on 22 patients at Children’s Hospital of Oakland. All of the patients responded favorably to the brace, and reported strong levels of wear and compliance. Not wearing a brace properly or for the recommended amount of time is one reason that bracing fails to halt the condition from progressing.

Dr. Policy said of the device, “It will take data to convince the insurers and medical community the value of this technology, but common sense dictates that if the children like their braces and are more comfortable wearing the devices, we will see higher compliance and greater success.”

For more information on 3D Systems, Rock Hill, SC, visit .