Broken Bones? Try This Awesome Looking Waterproof Cast

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If breaking your arm wasn’t bad enough, you have to deal with the smell, irritation, and restriction of a cast for six to twelve weeks. While fiberglass and plaster braces have a long history of success, a company in Minnesota believes it has a better option. The Exos braces and casts (from Exos Medical) are made from polymer and foam and take only 8 minutes to apply. Shaped in a dry heat process, the Exos material can be readjusted, tightened, or removed easily. They are also completely waterproof. Exos is a great example how new materials and designs can upgrade old technology.

New braces and casts from Exos are waterproof and really colorful.

New braces and casts from Exos are waterproof and really colorful.

Not all advances in medical science are going to involve stem cells, nanotechnology, or robots. There’s still much room for growth using new applications of traditional materials in smarter ways. The exponential improvement in quality of life promised by advancing discoveries in science won’t come about through any one technology. Instead it’s going to take many smaller technologies leap frogging and stop-gapping each other to get us into the next generation of medical success and human longevity.

Exos braces are formed by layers of polymer and foam. Laminating layers of materials together often produces a substance that has higher strengths to weight ratios. We saw a similar approach in the construction of the DASH robot. The exo material has the same strength as plaster or fiberglass but with 25-50% less mass. This provides less strain on the patient as they go about their daily activities with a cast.

The small dial on the bottom of the cast allows it to be adjusted by doctor or patient.

The small dial on the bottom of the cast allows it to be adjusted by doctor or patient.

One of the major selling points for Exos is that their products are shaped using a dry heat system. This eliminates the mess and may reduce the chance for bacterial growth and infection that can occur during traditional cast fitting. It also means that the same cast can be removed, reheated, and reshaped as necessary during the healing process. There’s no shears or cast saw needed. The casts are also more translucent to x-rays so that doctors can save time by not removing them.  Exos material is supposed to save doctors (and patients) a significant amount of money in labor costs, but medical facilities will need a special Exos oven to heat the materials correctly.  There’s a good chance that the new technology will have about the same total expense as the old.

So why use Exos? Well, first the braces come in a lot of crazy colors and look much cooler. But for those of you who don’t buy your medical supplies based on appearance, Exos also offers increased comfort and the ability to bathe. The foam/polymer laminate is completely waterproof, allowing for photo-opportunities like swimming in an Olympic-sized pool. Of course, the average user will be more pleased with the ability to wash worry-free using soap and water. A small adjustable dial on the cast or brace also allows patients to adjust the tightness of the cast giving easy access for scratching or compensation for extra space due to muscle atrophy.

Hopefully I’ll never have to use an Exos product, but I’m certainly impressed with the options it provides. Many small improvements in medical technology like this one add up to some impressive trends in healthcare. If you’ve used an Exos cast or brace (they’ve only been around since 2007, so I know that won’t be many of you) tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

[photo credits: Exos Medical]

Discussion — 6 Responses

  • saintneko October 21, 2009 on 8:39 pm

    I haven’t had one, thankfully, but they look and sound like something out of William Gibson’s Neuromancer novel.

  • saintneko October 21, 2009 on 4:39 pm

    I haven’t had one, thankfully, but they look and sound like something out of William Gibson’s Neuromancer novel.

  • sammy adams July 8, 2010 on 2:59 pm

    I would be enormously grateful if someone could tell me where to buy one of these in the UK for my 9 year old daughter who has broken her heel – we leave for our annual 3 week beach holiday on Monday. She is up to the knee in plaster and down in the dumps, crying with frustration (she’s a budding gymnast) and feeling horribly limited knowing she can’t swim…..and it’s gonna be HOT! I’d swap places with her like yesterday……can anyone help?

  • Gina July 18, 2010 on 2:44 am

    I’m wearing the short-arm fracture now. Man, my arms sweats and sweats and sweats in the Exos cast. I can’t emphasize that enough. There are a lot of small holes cut in the design, but the cast just doesn’t breath. In fact, it seems to hold in the heat. The sweating makes for a very itchy arm. There’s no way to nicely say this, but all the sweating has caused the cast to smell. The fit is very uneven and awkward; it offers poor support. Due to that, I can barely use my arm. The lacing system needs work, too. I’ve actually been wishing for the last two weeks that I had a traditional plaster cast. DO NOT LET YOUR DOCTOR PUT THIS CAST ON YOU IN THE SUMMER MONTHS. If you’re petite as I am, RUN the other way if your doctor to use the Exos.

  • Rebecca Matousek November 12, 2013 on 6:52 pm

    My 8 year old son broke his wrist (buckle fracture) on November 11, 2013 and we went to the orthopedic surgeon to get looked at and casted today and he was put in an Exos cast. It is a short arm fracture brace and we love it already. He is only going to need it for about 4 weeks so we will see what we think when it is all said and done. We haven’t had to have casts before and I have no idea what the cost comparison is like but if anyone knows how much they run I would love to know. I just let it go to my insurance company and hope they don’t reject it.