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Father creates 3D ankle foot orthosis to help his son, who suffers from cerebral palsy, to walk

Shared by Rita Torrao on 2018-09-24 18:15

About the solution

Matej’s son Nik was born one month prematurely. Due to difficulties during childbirth, Nik suffered severe brain damage that led to cerebral palsy (CP).
CP is a neurological disorder that impairs child’s movement, motor skills and muscle tone and is caused by abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance and posture.
Unsettled with the idea that their son would never be able to walk, Matej and his wife, Mateja, created a custom-made, 3D printed orthosis that provides support and correction where Nik needed, helping him to take his first steps independently.
“When you're looking at your child, you instinctively know what to do in order to help him,” said Matej.
Initially, when Nik was trying to stand up, his parents put him in skiing boots to stabilize his ankles. However, due to Nik’s low muscle tone and short Achilles tendon, his physiotherapist, Petra Timošenko suggested his parents to try an ankle-foot orthosis to help stabilize Nik’s foot instead. Matej and Mateja were confronted with two opposite choices: very uncomfortable pre-made orthotics; and extremely expensive custom-made orthoses.
“The lack of comfort and high price combined with all the other cons were enough that I decided to do something about it. I didn't have the solution at that time, but I wanted to find a better way to design it. I was just trying to help my son the best possible way.”, he added.
Matej found in the 3D printing technology the combination of high accuracy and design freedom he needed to achieve the perfect fit. It took him 13 prototypes to reach full success and to give Nik the support he needed, which comfortably fit into his normal pair of shoes. Also, the workflow that Matej developed for the 3D-custom-made orthosis in now under patent pending.
“Now I can do much more sophisticated exercise with him. We can run on a treadmill, we can jump, because I know that his feet are in the right position and I can’t cause any deformation to his bones or joints, that might, on the long term, require an operation to correct. If he didn’t have this orthosis, his feet would be in danger.”, Matej said.
Nik, who is now 7, is on his fourth 3D printed orthosis.
“The first version gave him confidence and stabilized him. The second version improved his overall walking smoothness. Then the third helped him get better posture, and that’s when he really started to enjoy the walking and started to play around. The fourth orthosis corrected his right foot that was off the center of his body, so now he’s able to stand with his feet together in a straightened, upright position.” Matej explained.
Matej, Mateja, Petra and Dejan Tašner, a certified orthotist and prosthetist, created the aNImaKe company with the aim to provide precise, patient-specific 3D printed orthotics to other children in need.
Adapted from: https://www.animake.si

This solution shall not include mention to the use of drugs, chemicals or biologicals (including food); invasive devices; offensive, commercial or inherently dangerous content. This solution was not medically validated. Proceed with caution! If you have any doubts, please consult with a health professional.

About the author

Three years after the premature and complicated birth of his son Nik, Matej Vlašič, from Maribor, Slovenia, was confronted with his son’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy. The orthoses prescribed by doctors to correct alignment or provide support to the limbs and spine of children with mobility problems are uncomfortable and painful or, alternatively, custom-made solutions that are expensive and become quickly obsolete to growing child. Matej, who is an engineer with 12 years of experience, decided to turn to 3D printing to create a much cheaper and more comfortable solution for his own son.

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