A study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation comparing the typical prosthetic socket casting process with CAD/CAM methods showed that CAD/CAM patients apparently adapted better during rehabilitation.
In the study, 72 patients, ages 16-70, with a transtibial amputation were trialed with a prosthetic socket made using CAD/CAM technology (Tracer CAD) or traditional carving technology, with 36 in each group. After rehabilitation, the groups’ pain scores, walking distance, duration of use, and pain-free walking time were compared, as well as other quality of life indicators. The CAD/CAM group adapted significantly quicker to their prostheses, walked farther, had less reported pain with ambulation, and generally had better measures in the Trinity Amputation and Prosthesis Experiences Scale. Patients were not blinded to the intervention, but the findings pointed to sockets manufactured through the newer CAD/CAM method as potentially providing better quality of life for those with transtibial amputations, the study found.
Though these findings offer some support for utilizing CAD/CAM methods in prosthetic fabrication, they don’t directly explore 3D printing, according to the study. One of the key challenges in 3D printing for lower-limb prostheses is finding the appropriate materials to print with that will withstand the demands of ambulation, which remains an area in need of more research, the study found.