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Revolutionary alternative to plaster casts for broken bones

“We have this radical notion that you can enjoy your healing experience. You don’t need to be restrained from daily activities."

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Chicago-based startup Cast21's new invention could spell the end for uncomfortable plaster casts. (Cast21 via SWNS)

By Isla Harvey via SWNS

The foul smell, itching and discomfort of wearing a plaster cast could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a clever new invention from Chicago. 

Startup Cast21 has created a waterproof, lightweight, and breathable alternative that can be worn to bathe, exercise, and even swim in the ocean. 

The patented design is constructed from a wide mesh sleeve filled with two resins, which are molded into the correct position for each patient before they harden. 

The new orthotic device has a space-age look, and even comes in a range of vibrant colors.  

Patients sporting traditional plaster or fiberglass casts are unable to clean underneath, making the skin susceptible to rot and infection. 

When it is time to remove the fetid, hardened bandages, wearers are forced to watch a doctor removing their cast using a circular saw. 

“The majority of fractures happen in children, adolescents, and the elderly,” said Cast21’s VP of engineering Veronica Hogg, 30.

Adding: “Those saws are very loud and all this debris flies off and it’s very messy, it can be extremely frightening. 

Chicago-based startup Cast21's new invention could spell the end for uncomfortable plaster casts. (Cast21 via SWNS)

“The cast saw also presents a risk of burns to the patient.  

“Our product does not require that at all. It’s designed so that a physician can take clinical shears, snip through the tabs and pull it open easily.

“It was designed to completely eliminate the use of a cast saw and make the healing process far more pleasant for the patient.”    

The Cast21 device is also faster to administer than traditional casts. 

Physicians start by measuring the damaged limb using a flexible measuring tape. 

Once they’ve selected the correct size they slide a flexible, slightly padded, sleeve onto their patient’s arm.  

Then, using a patented liquid pack, the physician mixes a duo of liquid resins and pours them into the empty sleeve using a valved nozzle. 

Liquid resins are being poured into a Cast21 sleeve. (Cast21 via SWNS)

After the sleeve is full it takes three minutes for the liquid to turn into a malleable gel. 

The doctor then molds the product to fit the patient’s limb and waits an additional five to seven minutes for it to completely harden. 

Essentially, Cast21 has turned the messy and time-consuming cast setting process into a less-than-ten minute procedure. 

Cast21e has a space-age look, and even comes in a range of vibrant colors. (Cast21 via SWNS)

“Another bonus is that no electricity or water is needed to apply our cast, so it’s very portable,” said Hogg. 

Apparently, there is no pain associated with the device’s hardening, and the exothermic heat it produces could even be beneficial. 

“It feels soothing,” said Hogg. 

“It reaches about the same temperature as a hot tub.” 

While Cast21 hopes to make a splash in the field of orthopedic technology, the innovation is still a work in progress. 

At the time of writing the company only had a forearm model designed in a medium size, but they hope to expand their sizing and create casts for the lower legs in the near future. 

“The idea is to prove that this technology works…right now we are past the prototype stage and have a fully functioning model in place for the forearm,” said Hogg. 

“We hope that this technology can span across the entire body. We are looking forward to having a lower limb model for ankle fractures soon. 

Cast21 forearm model.(Cast21 via SWNS)

“With the technology, we can also do a longer arm model or a model that goes up to the fingers as well.”

The team at Cast21 appears to be motivated by a refreshing sense of idealism. 

“We have this radical notion that you can enjoy your healing experience. You don’t need to be restrained from daily activities,” Hogg said.

Adding: “I’m from Colorado and I like to go hiking, the equipment needed to administer our cast is so small and lightweight that hikers and climbers could carry it with them in their backpacks. 

“I can see myself carrying one with me on hikes.

“It also has potential for use in the military and for at-home first aid.” 

Hiking with a Cast21 cast. (Cast21 via SWNS)

There is currently no price point associated with Cast21’s product, but the aim is to make it as accessible as possible. 

 “We want it to be competitive, and reachable to a large population,” said Hogg.  

“We don’t want this to be a luxury product. We are still conducting research in price sensitivity, and the final cost to the patients will be depending on their insurance and doctor."

Right now the technology is only in place to treat stable fractures that do not require surgical intervention, but Hogg is confident that it will be applied to more serious injuries in the future. 

“Right now we can treat what’s known as ‘distal radial fractures’ or DR fractures, that’s a catch-all term for any fracture of the radius that occurs close to the wrist,” she said. 

 “We are hoping, with more data and feedback from physicians, that they would feel comfortable using this technology after surgery was required. 

“We are interested in expanding the pilot use of our product in clinics. So we would love for anyone interested to reach out to us for more information.” 

Swimming with a Cast21 cast.(Cast21 via SWNS)

Waterproof, 3D-printed casts are already on the market around the US and Europe, but they can cost hundreds of dollars, and patients can be left waiting days or weeks for the cast to be printed and delivered to them.  

“3D printed casts can be very expensive, and the turnaround time is very slow,” said Hogg. 

“Our design is almost instant and very portable.” 

According to a 2019 report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the overall incidence of DR fractures occurring each year is increasing worldwide. 

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