How 3D Printed Foot Models Help Diabetic Patients foot

Diabetic patients are prone to suffering from neuropathy. This is the condition of not being able to feel anything in your extremities, so patients won’t know when their toe hit something. This is quite common among people who have high blood pressure. If the condition remains untreated, a small wound on a toe or feet might get infected. The most serious case might even lead to an amputation. While some patients might find it challenging to control their blood sugar and protect their extremities from neuropathy, 3D printing can help if the worst case scenario happens. Assistant professor Nicholas Giovinco at the University of Arizona’s Division of Vascular and Endovaccular Surgery leads the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA). SALSA is a team devoted to developing diabetic foot care as well as amputation prevention. Giovinco has started a practice that is becoming popular among hospitals these days, the use of foot models produced by a 3Dprinter for surgery. As a foot and ankle surgeon, he said that a plan must be prepared before a patient is wheeled into surgery. So Giovinco turned CT scans of ankle and foot deformities into files ready for 3D printing to aid surgeons in understanding each patient’s case before starting surgery. His team partnered up with the nonprofit FreeSide Atlanta to create templates that show different diabetic complications, such as a bone weakening disorder or a Charcot foot, that often require surgery. Giovinco also said that neuropathy causes people to feel numb even when they are in pain. It’s a good thing that Giovinco’s 3D templates have drastically enhanced surgery preparation, as more and more doctors study the 3D printed models of the foot and ankle before operating on a patient. SALSA director Dr. David Armstrong said that their team has used those 3D prints extensively. He added that the University of Arizona is all for the use of the best points from different disciplines, something that is shown in the production of the 3D templates to help foot and ankle surgeons. Giovinco has now become an advocate of 3D printing for medical purposes, particularly for analyzing foot and ankle deformities, as well as the use of open-source software and hardware. With the help of technology, he wants to improve the process of understanding different foot and ankle deformity cases around the world. That’s why the surgeon is now focusing his efforts on developing a “medical makerspace,” where biotech and medical researchers can start technological products, such as 3D printed prosthetics and limbs or wearable sensors. D. Giovinco’s project even made it to The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, which brought it even more attention, as well as a participation in an exhibition at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). This is where his 3D printed models are being shown in support of the museum’s exhibition about “Design for Social Impact.” For those who are interested to see Dr. Giovinco’s models but weren’t able to visit the exhibit, you can go to his Thingiverse page or YouTube channel instead.

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